Secretary's lawyers cost CVG board $60K+ [Legal Monitor Worldwide]
(Legal Monitor Worldwide Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The Kenton County Airport Board is facing more than $60,000 in estimated fees to defend airport secretary Carol Spaw in the ongoing federal lawsuit brought against her by board chairman Jim Huff and his wife over the accidental "pocket dial" cell call Spaw overheard.
The cost of Spaw's defense, now that the case is headed to an appeal, could eventually reach $100,000.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has a policy of paying for the legal defense of all employees if they face a lawsuit while conducting their duties. And while the airport's liability insurance carrier in question has agreed to pay for Spaw's defense, the insurance policy has a $100,000 deductible, and it is capped at $15 million.
Airport spokeswoman Melissa Wideman said Monday that the actual cost for Spaw's defense is not yet available and that the airport has not yet paid Spaw's lawyers. But she estimated that the current legal fees total about $60,500.
Wideman also said that Spaw did not specifically ask for her bills to be covered by the airport.
"In accordance with our insurance policy, when KCAB is notified of a claim against an employee, we are required to provide notice of the claim to the respective insurance company," Wideman said in a statement.
Wideman also said that the legal insurance policy has been used five times or less in the last five years, but did not have exact figures on the actual fees paid.
Spaw is represented by downtown Cincinnati-based labor lawyers Randy Freking and Jon Allison. According to emails obtained by The Enquirer through an open records request, Freking is charging $395 an hour and Allison is charging $250 an hour.
The Huffs sued Spaw late last year in federal court, alleging that she violated the federal wiretapping act by listening in and taking notes during an accidental call Jim Huff placed to Spaw's desk phone in late October. The call lasted 91 minutes and Spaw also recorded the last four minutes.
U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning threw out the Huffs' suit in the "pocket dial" case. The Huffs have filed notice that they will appeal to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The Huffs, along with airport board vice chairman Larry Savage, were in Bologna, Italy, for an airport conference last fall when the call occurred. Court records indicate that Jim Huff and Savage were discussing how to demote and possibly remove airport CEO Candace McGraw. Spaw works directly for McGraw.
The call also included a conversation between Jim and Bert Huff in their hotel room; Bert Huff is a former chairman of the airport board as well.
The legal fees are just the latest controversial expenses by the airport board in the last year. The board has spent more than $150,000 on coaching and consultants to improve relations between McGraw and individual board members. Huff acknowledged in December that the board had discussed firing McGraw at least twice in 2013, including during a contentious closed-door meeting in August 2013.
The board also spent more than $260,000 on travel expenses and food for airport conferences and dinners after board meetings in the last five years. Finally, the board hired a special auditor to review the findings of a special investigation by Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen. Edelen launched that probe last fall shortly after The Enquirer disclosed the travel and food spending.
The Huffs' lawyer, Mark Guilfoyle, said that the Huffs are paying their own legal fees, but declined to say what those were.
"Ms. Spaw is being provided a defense by the airport because she claims she was just doing her job, but she admits to deleting the recording off of the airport's phone and computer," Guilfoyle said, referring to Spaw's deposition in the original case, also obtained by The Enquirer before it was put back under seal by Bunning. "And she clearly violated the airport's code, which provides that 'unauthorized recording is never allowable.' "
Guilfoyle also pointed out that Spaw's subordinate, Nancy Hill, invoked the Fifth Amendment against self incrimination 45 times during her deposition. Hill also listened to part of the conversation as directed by Spaw, according to court records, and also took notes.
The Enquirer has filed open-record requests to the airport for the notes, transcripts and recordings from the phone call but has been denied to date.
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