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Outside counsel in Maryland unemployment lawsuit costing taxpayers nearly $500,000

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Posted at 4:37 PM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 17:21:55-05

BALTIMORE — The outside law firm hired to represent Governor Larry Hogan and Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson in an unemployment lawsuit has charged the state $476,490 for services rendered between June 30 and September 30.

According to the latest invoice submitted to the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, Venable billed nearly $94,000 for 167.4 hours of work between August 1 and September 30.

In August, Venable submitted an invoice for nearly $383,000 for 688.2 hours between June 30 and July 31.

RELATED: Maryland taxpayers stuck with $382,649.00 in attorneys fees over unemployment court battle

The lawsuit was filed after Governor Hogan announced the state would be ending federal unemployment benefits on July 3, two months before the September 6 expiration date.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh disagreed with that decision and declined to represent Hogan in the lawsuit. According to a spokeswoman for Frosh, the decision to hire outside counsel was agreed to by both sides.

“In early July, the Circuit Court ordered the State to continue paying benefits – a decision that Hogan appealed twice, and lost both times – confirming that Marylanders were legally entitled to them. We urged him to change course and he refused. Despite his efforts to deflect blame away from his decision, he is the reason the State incurred these expenses. Furthermore, the Governor’s Office was involved with, and provided input on, the decision to hire Venable,” wrote a spokeswoman with the Office of the Attorney General.

Following the court’s decision in July, legal counsel for Governor Hogan sent a letter to the Attorney General requesting his office defend the State in the other phases of the lawsuit.

Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Quattrocki wrote back:

“We disagree that our office no longer has a conflict regarding representation of the Governor in this lawsuit. Our assessment is based not on past political disagreements, but rather, in significant part, on the fact that the Attorney General has made clear his grave concerns about the performance of the State’s unemployment insurance system during this pandemic, and its abject failure to serve thousands of Marylanders who need these benefits to help them survive it.”

She added that the case is massive in scope and would likely require outside counsel to provide an adequate defense for the State.

In response, Mike Ricci, communications director for Governor Hogan, wrote:

“In July, our office requested that Attorney General Frosh reconsider his earlier political decision and defend the state in this phase of the case. Unfortunately, he refused and insisted on keeping outside counsel. We have shared all of this information with state budget officials as they work to ensure the Attorney General bears the costs of this activist litigation."

On November 3, a judge granted Governor Hogan’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Both invoices have been sent to the Department of Labor.

The Office of the Attorney General has said the Department will be responsible for paying for their representation.

Ricci said Labor will pay the invoices, and the Department of Budget and Management will take budget deficiencies from the Office of the Attorney General for those costs.

The Department of Budget and Management confirmed it will be seeking budget deficiencies from the Attorney General's Office.