For everyone out there playing city lawsuit bingo, it's time to dig up those score cards.
The $250 million lawsuit that contractor Al Bowers filed against the city in September 2007 took a turn last month when the City Attorney's Office stepped aside from representing the city and former Mayor L. Douglas Wilder.
The upshot: a Wilder-centered conflict will yet again send public money flowing to private counsel.
As of Oct. 27, the city had paid $1.3 million to private lawyers to handle previous Wilder lawsuits among the administration, City Council and the School Board — intra-governmental squabbles in which the city attorney stepped aside citing a conflict of interest. Mayor Dwight C. Jones has since dropped the remaining two appeals.
In his lawsuit, Bowers alleges that Wilder and two high-ranking city officials contrived to get his building company thrown off the $110 million renovation of the Miller & Rhoads building on East Broad Street. The hotel and condo development opened in early February without Bowers getting any of the action.
On March 5, the City Attorney's Office cited a conflict with the staff representing the city and the former mayor in the case. In late March, the mayor switched representation to Richmond lawyer Blackwell N. Shelly Jr. of the law firm Shelly and Schulte. It's the same firm where Wilder's former chief of staff, Sandra Robinson, went to work after Wilder left office.
Also in late March, the city substituted Troutman Sanders for the city attorney. Bowers' attorneys are challenging the switch, alleging that one of the private attorneys on the case, Brad Davenport, had consulted on the case with Bowers in spring 2007. They argue Davenport's knowledge of Bowers' case should disqualify the firm.
In related Bowers' lawsuit news, former chief administrative officer, William Harrell, was scheduled to be deposed April 17.