Ferguson paying attorney $1,335 per hour for DOJ reforms - report

Police officers respond after two officers were hit by gunfire outside the Ferguson Police Headquarters in Ferguson, Missouri March 12, 2015.(Reuters / Lawrence Bryant)
Ferguson, Missouri has secretly hired a distinguished trial lawyer to navigate reforms demanded by the US Department of Justice following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, paying nearly double the highest billing rate the state paid last year.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Ferguson City Council unanimously voted behind closed doors to hire Dan K. Webb to negotiate, and possibly litigate, reforms associated with a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of the St. Louis suburb’s police department and municipal court.

Webb is a former federal prosecutor whose clients in private practice have included Philip Morris, Microsoft, the New York Stock Exchange, Maricopa County in Arizona, and former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who was convicted of federal racketeering and fraud.

Webb, 69, also prosecuted former National Security Adviser John Poindexter, who was convicted of conspiring to mislead Congress among other charges, during the Iran-Contra scandal. The conviction was tossed out after appeal.

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Webb’s fee of $1,335 per hour is just under twice the $700 billing rate that topped all others in the state of Missouri in 2014, the Post-Dispatch reported citing Missouri Lawyers Weekly.

Like a St. Louis grand jury, the DOJ decided not to prosecute Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. The department’s investigation of the city, however, found that police brutality, racial profiling, and racial bias were routinely tolerated, while the city pressured the police chief and court officials to push traffic enforcement and fees with little regard for public safety.

According to the 105-page report, federal investigators uncovered “a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct within the Ferguson Police Department that violates the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and federal statutory law.”

The Ferguson city manager, police chief, and municipal judge resigned following the report. The municipal court clerk was fired for racist emails.

“Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices have sown deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular,” the investigation determined.

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The city and the DOJ must come to terms on reform, a process that will likely cost millions of dollars for a city that is already facing a 2 to 3 million-dollar budget deficit.

Webb’s fee does not include costs and fees for additional members of his staff who will be aiding him.

"The city wanted somebody who could try the case if necessary if they had to. But they don't want to do that," Webb told the Post-Dispatch "And it's clear to me that the Department of Justice doesn't want to do that. I have resolved a lot of cases in my time."

Ferguson city council members would not comment to the Post-Dispatch on Webb’s hiring. A Ferguson spokesman declined to comment to AP.