Ratepayer attorneys call accusations of improper behavior a lie - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

JeffCo ratepayer attorneys call accusations of improper behavior a lie

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

Three attorneys representing Jefferson County sewer users deny any wrong doing. They're accused of offering to drop legal challenges to the county's bankruptcy plan in exchange for cash.

A new day and new direction for Jefferson County abruptly took an unexpected turn Wednesday with an admission.

"If the county agree to pay him 250 thousand dollars in legal fees, he'd leave. I pray there is a special place in hell for salesmen who prey on the hopes of the poor and down trodden," said Commission President David Carrington.

Commission President David Carrington was talking about California attorney Calvin Grigsby who represents sewer users in an attempt to block the bankruptcy plan. Carrington stopped short of calling it bribery. But he pointed a finger at other attorneys who are also fighting the plan.

"But in fairness, Mr. Grigsby isn't alone. Mr. Couch and Mr. Firth who represent the Wilson plaintiffs made a similar offer yesterday [Tuesday] morning after requesting relief from the stay. Their price to walk away was six million," said Carrington.

The comments angered Commissioner George Bowman who walked out of the meeting.

"This information passed out at this commission meeting is slander. It's slandering the name and reputation of a man who has worked for us," said Bowman.

None of the accused attorneys were present at Wednesday for the meeting.

Joshua Firth worked with Steven Couch on one challenge to the bankruptcy plan. He says settlement talks are on-going but could not comment on whether an offer was made Tuesday morning. However, he says he's never asked the county for any money.

"What we've done, what we've attempted to do because we felt it was the right thing for the county. We never thought the ratepayers should be burdened or saddled with any of the debt," said Firth.

In 1998, Grigsby was charged in two separate cases with bribing county officials in Florida and embezzling county funds. He was acquitted in one case and found not guilty in another.

He sent an email about the accusations saying, "there is no excuse for Carrington's misstatement."

Grigsby forwarded an email to a county attorney with the draft of a motion. It asks for Grigsby's legal fees to be covered. He says he's entitled to compensation under the U.S. bankruptcy code. That's because he believes his work helped lower the sewer debt.

Carrington would not comment about whether the bankruptcy judge was made aware of these allegations. He referred legal questions to the county attorney who would not comment.

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