Following a suggestion from Gov. Rick Scott, the Alston and Bird law firm has been hired to represent Scott and other state officials in a lawsuit challenging the state's new pension law. The law requires state employees to contribute 3 percent of their paychecks to the state's general revenue fund to off set state contributions to the retirement plan. Several unions are suing, arguing the payments are unlawful and unconstitutional.
The contract, approved by the Department of Management Services on Aug. 3, allows the Alston and Bird law firm, which has offices in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and other cities (not in Florida), to charge up to $60,000 under an initial agreement. Attorney General Pam Bondi approved a total contract of $400,000 for attorneys fees and $100,000 for costs. Although rules generally limit attorney's fees to $200 per hour, Management Services received a waiver from Bondi to pay $495 an hour. "Authorization is provided because the necessary legal expertise is not currently available on staff," Bondi's memo to Department of Mangement Services says.
"These lawyers have been working for DMS for quite some time. There are relatively few people who do pension work," said Scott spokesman Brian Burgess. Although Scott suggested the outside counsel, "all the parties have agreed to be represented by these attorneys," Burgess aid.
Defendants in the suit are Scott, Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who serve as trustees of the State Board of Administration, which oversees Florida's $134 billion retirement fund.