County, ex-litigation official settle

Posted in uwvmwtei on January 3rd, 2020

first_imgCounty Counsel Ray Fortner was out of the country and could not be reached for comment, but other officials in the County Counsel’s Office said the increase in legal costs is not related to Nagle’s departure. “Judgments and settlements go up and down and part of it is reflected in juries getting more generous,” said Senior Assistant County Counsel Steve Carnevale, who served as interim litigation cost manager after Nagle was fired. “I think everybody has seen that, not just in the public sector, but in private industry, as well. And part of it is more litigation.” Nagle, who also helped cut litigation costs when he worked at Superior National Insurance Co., from 1996 to 2003, worked for the county from May 2003 until he was fired in October 2006. “I am glad that this matter was resolved in a climate of reason and understanding without the need for litigation,” said Nagle, a graduate of Pepperdine University and the Southwestern University of School of Law. In a twist worthy of a Hollywood legal drama, the official credited with saving Los Angeles County taxpayers millions of dollars in legal costs has quietly been paid $450,000 to settle his wrongful-termination suit. Los Angeles County supervisors on July 31 approved the settlement with Robert Nagle, the former litigation cost manager who filed a $2.2 million suit in April and accepted the deal late last month. In the year since the 58-year-old Agoura Hills attorney was fired, the county’s costs for judgments, settlements and outside legal fees have begun to creep back up. County legal costs hit a high of $109 million in 2002-03 but dropped to $74 million in 2003-04 and $75 million in 2004-05 during Nagle’s tenure, according to the County Counsel’s Office. They are projected to total $89 million for 2006-07. Nagle was replaced in June by attorney Steve Estabrook, who has nearly 30 years of legal experience, including stints as a prosecutor in Contra Costa County and associate litigation director for Litton Industries Inc. “My first order of business is to get my arms around the costs,” Estabrook said. “In terms of bringing them down, that will involve a number of items. I’m just formulating that now.” Fortner gave no reason for firing Nagle. But in a letter sent to county supervisors after his dismissal, Nagle alleged that Fortner’s office hid information about rising costs, failed to comply with cost-cutting policies and didn’t notify the supervisors about conflicts of interest. Fortner, who was named county counsel in late 2004, denied the allegations and gave the supervisors a confidential 29-page rebuttal letter. Supervisors Gloria Molina and Michael D. Antonovich called for an independent investigation into Nagle’s allegations but their motion failed. Instead, the board ordered an internal audit of Fortner’s office. In a confidential January report obtained by the Daily News, Auditor-Controller Tyler McCauley wrote that County Counsel’s Office staffers had not consistently followed procedures, which may have led to higher litigation costs. The County Counsel’s Office has recently again come under fire after Fortner quietly decided to end the longtime practice of publicly releasing details about lawsuit settlements. Fortner justified his actions by saying lawyers with lawsuits pending against the county used the online documents to demand more money in settlement negotiations. But under fire that the move fostered a culture of secrecy, the supervisors directed Fortner to rescind the policy. Last month, Molina introduced a motion for Tuesday’s upcoming meeting calling on Fortner’s office to make all lawsuit settlements public. Chief Deputy County Counsel Donovan Main said the office uses a variety of criteria for determining which cases should be made public – including the settlement of Nagle’s case. But Molina spokeswoman Roxane Marquez said the supervisor is closely monitoring litigation costs at the County Counsel’s Office and hopes her colleagues will vote to again make all legal settlements public. “We feel, for the most part, that the public has a right to know what is going on,” Marquez said. “After all, these are public institutions and we are talking about the public’s money.” (213) 974-8985160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more