Saturday, October 11, 2008

Appearance of impropriety in Fayette jail case

Intense speculation this weekend has Fayette jail employee plaintiffs in the wage and hour class action lawsuit against the city protesting the settlement agreement their attorneys worked out for them under suspicious circumstances.

Think low rent Fen-Phen scandal. That would be the class action lawsuit in which the plaintiffs attorneys ripped off their clients, gorging themselves on the settlement.

This case is different in the number of political connections between the low settlement for the hundreds of present and former employees who were cheated by the city ($530,463 in cash, $345,000 in paid leave time), the attorneys fees paid to lawyers at Miller, Griffin & Marks ($1,144,537), and Mayor Jim Newberry.

Judge Jennifer Coffman ordered the plaintiffs' attorneys at Miller, Griffin & Marks to get testimony from three neutral-party attorneys that the settlement amount was appropriate. Two of the three contributed to Mayor Newberry's most recent campaign. All agreed the settlement amount was not improper.

A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, October 14 in which individual plaintiffs may express concerns about the settlement agreement. Dissatisfaction among current and former jail employees and the appearance that plaintiffs' attorneys may have short-changed the plaintiffs in deference to Mayor Newberry is further complicated by a four decades-old story from Memorial Coliseum:

The Wes Coffman in the story is not only the same Dr. Wes Coffman who donated $1075 to Mayor Jim Newberry's last election campaign, he is also the husband of Judge Jennifer (Burcham) Coffman, who is also the judge in the class action lawsuit.

Doesn't look good for the plaintiffs in this one: