Taxpayers in the City of Virginia Beach got somewhat of a break in a recently settled eminent domain case.
WAVY’s Andy Fox reports Joe Waldo, the attorney for Joseph Bergano, wanted $600,000 in attorney fees. The city thought he was due $94,000.
“We deserve the cost of the case and the attorney fees that are about $600,000,” Waldo said.
Bergano, a dentist, took the city to court because they told him he could stay in his building but he had already made plans to move and thought he should be compensated.
Federal judge Henry Morgan said Friday he did not think the case was special enough to warrant the legal fees Waldo thought he deserved. Waldo will get around $200,000.
“There has to be some reduction … Mr. Waldo’s hours were filled in long after the work was performed, and the starting date is difficult to determine when the clock started running.”
The city recently settled with Bergano for $175,000. City attorney fees for Kaufman & Canoles attorney Hunter Sims was in excess of $336,000, including expert witness fees and other fees.
Of Waldo’s fees, Morgan said Friday, “I don’t think the plaintiff can recover expert witness fees … I believe a reasonable legal fee is around $200,000.”
Judge Morgan also dinged Waldo due to poor billable hour records.
“If we had kept better records the judge would have paid more he said that,” the judge said.
Andy Fox asked, “Was that a mistake to do that?” Waldo answered: “It wasn’t a mistake, it was just how we were moving through that case.”
One could argue it was a mistake if you ended up getting less than what you could have because you did it.
It would also appear the real losers in the case are Virginia Beach Taxpayers because with that $200,000 to Waldo here is the breakdown of the cost:
The Bergano Case — Cost To Taxpayers
To Dr. Bergano: $175,000
Attorney Fees: $200,000
City’s Outside Council: $310,000
Expert Witnesses: $39,439
“Taxpayers lost because the city fought the Berganos as the judge said at every turn, so in the end [Virginia Beach failed to give them] due process and equal protection and because of that the City of Virginia Beach lost,” Waldo said.
Judge Morgan has been critical of how the city attorney’s office handled the case from the start.
“It is unfortunate you don’t have a negotiating partner, and the city didn’t have one for the first two years of this case,” said Deputy City Attorney Chris Boynton.
Dr. Bergano sharply disagrees.
“The city doesn’t understand when they are wrong,” Bergano said. “They don’t know what they are supposed to do. I still haven’t heard an apology and all they are saying is we are being uncooperative, which is not true.”
Waldo told 10 On Your Side that he thought Friday was a victory, and he got $200,000 from the city, his client won and hopefully the city learned a less on how to treat people displaced by city projects.