The City's Racking Up Quite the Legal Bill Fending Off Dallas Fire-Rescue Lawsuits

The Dallas City Council was briefed behind closed doors yesterday on the two pending cases involving past and present Dallas-Fire Rescue employees: Leanne Siri v. City of Dallas and Helen Watts v. City of Dallas. We mentioned the former in November, when the city released an independent report concerning allegations made by Siri-Edwards, the one-time highest-ranking woman in the department whose suit contains a laundry list of complaints involving harassment and retaliation made against Fire Chief Eddie Burns and dozens of other DFR officials. As Patrick "Buzz" Williams noted at the time, "The investigation generally found that the vast majority of Siri's complaints, especially those against Burns, were either unsubstantiated or uncorroborated."

Siri-Edwards's suit, in federal court here, isn't slated for trial till July; a hearing in Watts's case, scheduled for last month in state court, was delayed. But theirs are not the only outstanding claims made by women who worked for Dallas Fire-Rescue; Sherrie Lopez, Sheila Schulte-De Albrecht, Diana Salinas and Cheryl Hill are also among those standing in line.

And while the city awaits its day in court, the meter's running on the legal bill: Next Wednesday, according to its agenda, the council will vote to pay $650,000 to McKinney Ave. law firm Bell, Nunnally & Martin, which has already received $825,000 from the city to cover costs associated with the cases. Which brings, for now, the city's total expenditure to $1,475,000. I've called and e-mailed City Hall spokesman Frank Librio to see if that figure also covers the price tag of the independent investigation.

Update at 4:23 p.m.: Librio just got back to me with an answer. He had to check with the City Attorney's Office first. He writes: "Yes. That includes the cost of the independent investigation."

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