VERMILION — Former Mayor Jean Anderson and her attorney are appealing a ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, saying that information they requested from the city of Vermilion is “public record” and should be released.
On Sept. 14, Anderson and her attorney, Andrew Bemer, filed a suit against the city, contending that the city had withheld public records, including itemized billing statements, from the law firm of Law Director Kenneth Stumphauzer.
The suit states that the city provided copies of canceled checks but failed to provide itemized billing statements that Bemer called a matter of “public record.”
But the court reached a judgment April 25 stating that the records Anderson requested “are protected by attorney-client privilege and are therefore exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act.”
Bemer has since mailed out a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court.
He said he believes the issue is “far enough reaching” that it should be reconsidered.
“This is a slippery slope allowing an attorney to circumvent and not disclose information because of a couple lines of legal advice,” he said.
According to the ruling, information requested by Anderson was protected because the invoices contained a description of the services rendered and time spent on each service.
Bemer said that those items can be redacted.
“They do not want to disclose simply how much is being spent on attorney fees. … That’s something the public has to know,” he said.
Stumphauzer has told The Chronicle-Telegram that he did not supply the billing documents because they contain information about cases that would violate attorney-client privilege.
He said he would rather have a court rule in regard to providing redacted information.
According to Bemer, Anderson initially requested the information to compare compensation granted to Stumphauzer and his firm with that paid to former Law Director Donald Zaleski, who served while she was mayor.
“She thought it was worth looking at without assuming any right or wrong on it,” Bemer said. “Whether she was a former mayor or just a citizen on the street, she has every right to know.”
Stumphauzer’s attorneys were unable to be reached for comment.
Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.