Appellate court dismisses appeal in legal officer case

By Erianne Leatherman | May 15, 2018

ST. LOUIS - A Missouri appellate court has dismissed an appeal from an assistant legal officer against a political subdivision amid a dispute about alleged unpaid legal fees. 

In a May 1 ruling, the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District dismissed an appeal from Bernard F. Edwards, Jr. on a trial court’s summary judgment that ruled against him in favor of Northeast Ambulance and Fire Protection District where Edwards had served as assistant legal officer from 2007-2011, citing "failure to comply with the rules of appellate procedure."

Northeast Ambulance was to pay Edwards $60,000 for his legal services per an amended agreement. He was also to be paid at an hourly rate for “legal services performed and out-of-pocket expenditures,” the ruling stated.

In 2009 a district taxpayer, Kevin Buchek, sued board members Robert Edwards and Rhea Willis, along with Joseph Washington, a former board member who had moved to the position of fire chief of the board. According to the ruling, the lawsuit alleged “the board members had authorized unconscionable and illegal contracts with Appellant, Walton, and Washington."

Settlement Agreements and Resolution No. 109 stated Edwards and the district had “determined to mutually terminate” the amended agreement of the appellant's employment, the ruling said. “109 stated the district owed the appellant $90,000 for “full settlement and release of any and all claims arising out of and pertaining to his contract and amended contracts of appointment or retention as assistant legal officer with the district, including but not limited to the outstanding retainers due and owing to the assistant legal officer from Nov. 1, 2009 through April 30, 2011․” 

In 2011, the circuit court dismissed the Buchek case without prejudice, the ruling stated. In an August 2014 petition, Edwards sought damages from the settlement agreement breach and filed a second amended petition against the district in December 2014 for breach of the settlement agreement, a motion for summary judgment, and a statement of uncontroverted material facts, the ruling said. 

The ruling said the court, typically, likes to decide cases on merit, but "despite our best efforts to do so, the deficiencies in the record require the court to dismiss the appeal.”


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