Airport board rejects attorney’s bill

Grand Junction Regional Airport officials turned down an attorney’s request for $10,000, for the time he put into drafting his bill for the costs of suing the airport.

Airport authority board members on Wednesday unanimously declined to pay attorney John Steel for the 70 hours Steel said he put into preparing his bill in a whistleblower case brought by airport tenants.

Steel’s request for fees in the case sat awaiting action for months, airport authority Chairman Rick Taggart said. Steel, however, requested the costs of bill preparation through the airport’s attorney after a judge previously awarded him more than $108,000 in fees.

The costs of preparing the bill should have been included in the original request for fees, board members said.

“We’re spending five minutes on this, why?” board member Tim Pollard said.

The board did agree unanimously to pay the $108,000 after concluding that the costs of appealing the award could well outweigh the actual bill.

The board’s attorney, Karl Hanlon, and board member Chuck McDaniel, a retired attorney, both said it was unlikely that Steel would press the bill-preparation issue.

U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello had awarded Steel fees at the rate of $300 per hour.

At that rate, Steel could have sought $21,000 on top of his original award, but asked the airport’s attorney for less than half that amount.

Board member Tom Benton said the airport’s attorney should respond saying, “There will be no more funds forthcoming.”

Arguello awarded the fees in connection with the whistleblower suit filed by airport tenants Dave Shepard and Bill Marvel.

Arguello awarded the federal government $16,500 from the airport in the case.


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