Brownsburg PD racks up $413K in legal fees

Posted at 4:13 PM, May 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-25 21:47:07-04

BROWNSBURG -- Citizens in the town of Brownsburg are raising concerns about $413,070 in legal fees racked up by the police department and police commission, which acts as a review board for the police.

The town hired private attorney Jayson Marksberry back in 2011 at a rate of $150/hour, but his rate now sits at $175/hour.

Call 6 Investigates obtained every invoice Marksberry submitted to the town, and found $413,070.91 in total expenses, including $194,803.75 billed in 2015 alone.

  • 2011 - No invoices provided
  • 2012 - $30,854.75 
  • 2013 - $70,979.77
  • 2014 - $92,685.14
  • 2015 - $194,803.75
  • 2016 - $23,747.50 

According to the invoices, Marksberry bills the town for emails and phone calls, discussions over public records requests, tort claims and lawsuits against town police, as well as police officer discipline.

Call 6 Investigates checked with other communities in Hendricks County, and found Plainfield had $67,818 in police legal expenses in the same time frame, and Avon had $78,424.

Zionsville, Greenfield, Franklin and other similar sized communities also did not have police legal expenses surpassing Brownsburg.

“It’s probably a little bit higher than most, and we’re looking at the reason why,” said Sean Benham, a new member of the Brownsburg Town Council.

The town council approves the legal expenditures for police.

They are currently reviewing the town’s agreement with Marksberry to see if it’s a good use of taxpayer money.

“I’m always concerned when it comes to taxpayers and the monies being spent,” said Benham.

The town may consider using a flat monthly fee, which many towns and cities use for legal services, as opposed to an hourly rate.

Brownsburg citizens who contacted Call 6 Investigates were afraid to come out publicly against town hall, but Call 6 Investigates wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions.

However, the police chief, police department spokesperson and the president of the police commission did not make themselves available for an on-camera interview.

Court records show Police Commission President Allan Bolante used Jayson Marksberry for a personal matter in 2013 and 2014, while Marksberry was also representing the police commission.

A conflict of interest form was not submitted, according to the Indiana State Board of Accounts, the state agency that audits town government.

“We don’t see a per se conflict as long as the head of the police commission is paying the appropriate legal fees for his personal legal representation,” said Andy Shank, director of local government fraud for the Indiana State Board of Accounts. “If the head of the police commission were receiving free or discounted legal services because the attorney also represented the Brownsburg Police and police commission, that could potentially constitute a violation of Indiana Code.”

Benham said if citizens have concerns, they should contact the Hendricks County prosecutor.

“The prosecutors’ office can look at it and make a determination if there’s anything that needs to be done further on that,” said Benham.

Benham said one possible reason for the high attorney's fees is because of increased scrutiny of police departments in general, in the age of cellphones, social media and high profile cases.

“There’s a lot more litigious action taken against police departments, and that’s why there’s an attorney involved to make sure the police are protected,” said Benham.  “We’ve had a significant increase in public records requests over the last two years.”

In an email to RTV6, the Brownsburg Police Department said the number of litigation claims, subpoenas, records requests and other legal matters doubled or tripled from 2013 to 2015.

The town denied Call 6 Investigates’ public records request to view tort claims and employee discipline matters handled by Marksberry.

“Mr. Marksberry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Brownsburg Police Commission that allows both parties to terminate services at any time for any reason,” said Captain Jennifer Pyatt-Barrett, Brownsburg police spokeswoman in an email to Call 6 Investigates. “Mr. Marksberry is an 'at will' independent contractor who provided the [police commission] with a fair hourly rate prior to signing the MOU.  He has also remained within the estimated yearly budget that was provided to the PC, with the exception of fiscal year 2015, as invoices were carried over from the 2014 fiscal year into the 2015 year.  Thus, this would appear to be a significant increase for the 2015 fiscal year.”

Benham said to his knowledge, the agreement does not constitute anything illegal or improper, but they are getting to the bottom of why the costs are so high.