Manatee County Port Authority OK's agreement for legal services

skennedy@bradenton.comMarch 22, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County Port Authority Thursday approved a three-year contract for legal representation capped at $230,000 the first year.

The contract with Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A., of Bradenton, called for an annual total fee not exceeding $235,000 the second year and $240,000 the third year, according to port authority documents.

"I'm just very, very comfortable with you representing us at the port," said Commissioner Robin DiSabatino to a firm attorney, R. Steven Lewis, who addressed the authority during a regular meeting at Port Manatee.

The contract specified that, under certain circumstances, the authority may hire outside legal help with special expertise.

It cited as one example the bankruptcy of one of the port's business partners, HRK Holdings, LLC, whose case is being handled by a firm that specializes in bankruptcy.

The authority in 2011 paid $412,930 in legal fees, including outside attorneys on special projects; and in 2012, it paid $465,258 in legal fees, including outside attorneys, according to Robert J. Armstrong, chief financial officer

and senior director of business for the port.

County commissioners, who make up the port authority board, have said previously they were concerned about the cost of legal services following an 2011 environmental debacle that resulted in a flood of almost 170 million gallons of contaminated water into areas around the port.

It was that incident that led to the bankruptcy of HRK Holdings.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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