WVEDA renews legal contracts

West Virginia Economic Development board members had no new projects to consider Thursday at the board’s monthly meeting.

“Despite a light agenda, I know of some definite projects in July,” David Warner, WVEDA executive director, said. “There’s still a lot of activity — just couldn’t get them board ready.”

Warner said at least two projects were sidelined until July, and he expects activity to pick up next month.

“There are always six to eight things that we are all working on, and whether any of them get us enough information in time to get it to the board determines our agenda,” Warner said.

Board members did approve a loan extension to Fairmont Tool ending Dec. 31, 2014.

Board members decided to renew three separate contracts with the Spilman, Thomas & Battle and Bowles Rice law firms, both of which have been advising the board for more than 15 years.

The legal contracts are for the 2014-2015 fiscal year , which begins July 1. Warner said the authority receives excellent legal services from the firms. The hourly rates did not increase from last year’s contracts.

“They have a lot of institutional knowledge about our organization,” Warner said. “Their historical knowledge helps us immensely.”

Much of that historical knowledge relates to legislation.

It stems from the two firms helping the authority work through various aspects of the West Virginia State Code year after year, and seeing the legislative changes and how the authority is to interact with other state agencies, Warner said.

“Other firms would not have tracked that history because we did not have them employed,” Warner said.

Spilman, Thomas & Battle serves as the authority’s general representation. Fees from the contract are not to exceed $140,000, including out-of-pocket expenses not to exceed $10,000. Out-of-pocket expenses, such as for food or travel, are costs not included in hourly rates.

Bowles Rice has two legal contracts with the authority. It serves as secondary counsel, as well as representation in matters involving the Capital Company Act and the Venture Capital Act.

Fees from secondary representation are not to exceed $30,000, including out-of-pocket expenses not to exceed $3,000.

Fees stemming from the two legislative acts are not to exceed $40,000, including out-of-pocket expenses not to exceed $4,000.

Both firms will be paid between $70 to $210 per hour based on legal experience for general and secondary counsel.

Warner noted the authority’s second contract with Bowles Rice has not been used recently.

“The legislature has not approved tax credits under either of those programs for ten years, but it would just take one legislative action to say we’re going to provide tax credits under this statue next year,” Warner said. “This is just in case that legislative action would occur then we have legal counsel to cover it.”

Bowles Rice would be paid $65 to $200 per hour.

Warner said it’s been more than five years since the authority came close to raking up legal fees near a contract’s maximum amount.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.

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