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Fort Myers approves unpaid $37,000 go to outside law firm

BREAKING: Fort Myers City Council unanimously approved a $37,000 purchase order Monday to pay past due invoices to law firm Knott, Ebelini and Hart.

The firm employs attorney Kristie Scott and former Fort Myers Mayor Jim Humphrey, who are members of what’s known as the transition team.

This increases the amount of money the firm has been paid since 2018 for legal assistance in restructuring the city attorney’s office.

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Since at least April 2018, the transition team has consulted the city attorney on restructuring and growing the office.

A prior purchase order allowed for $98,000 to be paid to the firm.

According to documents provided by City Legal Administrator Phyllis Calloway, invoices totaling an additional $35,519.24 are unpaid.

The $37,000 purchase order, if approved, will provide funding for those invoices and allow for some additional funds if the transition team incurs additional bills.

“We are creating a structure where we can increase in size,” said Grant Alley, the Fort Myers city attorney.

City Councilman Kevin Anderson motioned to eliminate the transition team in December, but it failed in a 4-3 vote. He said he will raise questions about the purchase order request at last week’s meeting.

Documents filed with the city council agenda item show Jim Humphrey billed to review council agendas, review Grant Alley’s email and schedule staff meetings. He also billed $350 to draft an email related to a farewell party for a former office manager in the city attorney’s office.

“There was a party that was planned for an employee that was a problematic employee,” Alley said. “And, during work hours for an employee that should not have been taking place, the transition team was asked to assist with that.”

The $37,000 purchase order, if approved, will also correct a mistake made in spending of the original purchase order.

Calloway and Alley said money was paid out of the transition team purchase order to fund work that Knott, Ebelini and Hart had done for other projects which should have been paid from separate purchase orders.

Alley said he is confident the work of the transition team is almost complete, but it will be up to city council to decide if and when their role will be diminished.

WINK News emailed Jim Humphrey for comment Friday afternoon, but did not hear back at time of publication.

Reporter:Lauren Sweeney
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