Legal costs quadruple while Fort Smith seeks to hire city prosecutor

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,268 views 

While the task of filling the city prosecutor position for the City of Fort Smith remains, the city is paying nearly four times more the hourly rate for an attorney to fill-in for the job.

The city prosecutor position was left open when John Settle, who served as the city’s prosecuting attorney for 11 years, died Oct. 26 after suffering a heart attack at a gym. Seven attorney’s applied for the position: Matt Davis, Christina Scherrey, Joshua Bugeja, Barry Neal, Patrick Flake, Joseph Self Natalie King and Lee Davis.

Scherrey and Davis, attorneys with the Sebastian County Public Defender’s Office, took part in panel interviews Feb. 7. City Administrator Carl Geffken spoke with Fort Smith Board of Directors for their input on the position in an executive session Feb. 18.

While the city has been without a named city prosecutor, Rick Wade with Daily and Woods, PLC, has acted in the role. Wade is paid $160 per hour for prosecuting work for the city, according to Karen Santos, Fort Smith communications manager. Hours required for the fill-in work varied over the past few months. In November, Wade billed the city for 44 hours, which would calculate to $7,040 for the month. In December, he billed 57 hours ($9,120) and in January 54 hours ($8,640).

The salary range for the full-time position is $27.27 to $41.84 per hour, which calculates to a range of $57,721.60 to $87,027.20 annually, Santos said. In the city’s 2020 budget, the city prosecutor’s office was budgeted for $204,357 for the year, with $193,972 for personnel and $10,385 for operating expense. The office is budgeted for two employees, the prosecutor and a legal secretary.

Scherrey has worked with the public defender’s office since January 2007. She served as the lead defense attorney with the Sebastian County Drug Court from 2015 to 2017. She is a graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.

Davis has been with the public defender’s office since December 2015. He worked with Daily & Woods law firm from 2006 to 2013 and Robertson, Beasley & Ford from 2013 to 2014. Prior to joining the public defender’s office, he was in private practice. He received his law degree from Oklahoma City University School of Law.

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