Magistrates want county to pay $33,000 in attorney fees

achristnovich@beaufortgazette.comJuly 23, 2012 

Three magistrates who successfully sued Beaufort County for retroactive pay raises now argue the county should pay their $33,000 legal tab.

Judge Carmen Mullen, however, ruled against the magistrates' request for legal fees in June, saying the amount they seek is excessive. The magistrates -- Beth Prince, David Taub and Lawrence McElynn -- filed an appeal July 11.

Beaufort County attorney Josh Gruber called the appeal "shocking."

"Our attorney represented us quite well for a tenth of what they're requesting," Gruber said. The county paid about $3,500 in fees for its lawyer, Bill Young of Beaufort, according to county documents.

Eleven Beaufort County magistrates were awarded three months of retroactive pay, totaling about $20,000, by Mullen in April. Mullen said the county overstepped its authority when it tried to delay state-required raises based on population growth until July 1, 2011, the start of the 2011-12 fiscal year. Mullen ruled the raises had to start on March 22, 2011, the day 2010 Census data became official.

Gruber said the magistrates' attorney, Butch Bowers of Columbia, agreed he would only charge the magistrates if the county was required to pay his fees. "The judges don't owe their attorney that money... (but) they're still asking taxpayers for it," he said.

Young and Bowers both declined to comment on the case because it is still open.

The case for attorney fees moves next to the S.C. Court of Appeals.

Related content:

Beaufort County Circuit Court sides with magistrate judges for retroactive pay raise, April 30, 2012

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