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Lawyer to defend Branstad will cost $325 per hour

This news story was published on January 18, 2012.
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From James Q. Lynch, CR Gazette –

The Iowa Executive Council voted 4-0 Tuesday to hire Des Moines attorney George LaMarca as outside counsel for $325 an hour to represent Gov. Terry Branstad and members of his administration for alleged discrimination, extortion, harassment and defamation in a lawsuit brought by Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey.

The council approved the item without comment. Voting to approve LaMarca to represent Branstad were State Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, State Auditor David Vaudt, Secretary of State Matt Schultz — all Republicans — and State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, a Democrat. Godfrey, an appointee of former Gov. Tom Vilsack, accused Branstad of wrongfully cutting his salary after he declined to resign. Godfrey also said he was singled out because he’s gay.

Council support documents indicated that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office requested approval from the executive council to spend up to $325 an hour to hire LaMarca and to pay $210 an hour to two associates who likely will assist in the governor’s defense. Miller’s office noted that a member of his staff could be called as a witness in the case and that the governor had expressed “his strong preference to retain outside counsel,” according to a letter from Julie Pottorff, a deputy attorney general who advises the council. She noted in her letter that LaMarca’s proposed hourly rate was “a significant discount” from his standard charge.

After the meeting, Fitzgerald expressed some misgivings, noting that when outside attorney assistance is necessary, the rate the state pays is generally around $80 an hour but this exceeds that substantially. Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said the attorney general’s office typically would represent the state but, because someone in that office may be called as a witness, the use of outside counsel is the appropriate response in this situation.

“When our office is sued, we have no choice but to competently defend not just ourselves, but the Iowa taxpayers who are the ultimate targets of these money damage lawsuits,” he said.

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