NY Daily News - June 08, 2012by John Marzulli
Judge Nicholas Garaufis signs off of hefty bill for only two months of workThe court-appointed monitor overseeing the FDNY's minority hiring has socked the city with a $353,321.73 legal bill -- and it's only for two-months work. Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis signed off on the hefty tab -- which covers fees and expenses between January 4 and February 28 -- a day after monitor Mark Cohen submitted it.
Cohen and his firm have already pocketed $310,758.90 for work covering a 52-day period last year -- and they could rake in as much as $20 million over the next decade, the city said.
"At this rate city taxpayers will be charged approximately $2 million a year for services that under the Court's order are to last for ten years," the city's top lawyer, Michael Cardozo, wrote in a letter to Garaufis, challenging the latest bill's amount and the judge's rapid rubber-stamping.
"I write on behalf of the city to object to the court's approval -- before the city had any opportunity to object," Cardozo stated in the June 6 letter.
Garaufis appointed Cohen to the post after ruling that the city had intentionally discriminated against minority firefighter applicants for decades.
Cardozo suggested that the monitor's bill indicates there may be unnecessary duplication of work and questioned the need for four or five lawyers from Cohen's firm -- plus consultants -- to attend the same interviews with FDNY officials.
Cardozo also objected to more than half of the attorney hours being billed at the top rate of $650-per-hour rather than the lower $415-per-hour rate. There are also intermediate rates of $550 and $525-per-hour -- all approved by the court.
Garaufis ordered the city to pay the last bill in April and to stop demanding more detailed invoices from the monitor.
The judge curtly reminded Cardozo in writing that the monitor works for him, not the city.
Garaufis has bitterly clashed with city lawyers and Mayor Bloomberg over the course of the discrimination case, which was filed by the U.S. Justice Department during the Bush administration.
The city has asked the Court of Appeals to reverse his rulings and assign the case to another federal judge, accusing Garaufis of bias.
Meanwhile Cohen and the city are also tangling over whether the monitor has jurisdiction over the issue of firehouse fax machines being used to disseminate flyers that have criticized the Vulcan Society of black firefighters and asserted that incoming minorities are unqualified for the job.