Jeffco leaders against legal fees in refund battle

By Alan Collins

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - A war of words has erupted over legal fees in the occupational refund battle.

On Wednesday, Jefferson County attorney Jeff Sewell updated county commissioners on the Alabama Supreme Court ruling from last week. "We know plaintiffs lawyers not provided any net benefit to taxpayers because the taxpayers still owe 37.8 million dollars," Sewell said.
Sewell says the ruling means the county is entitled to recollect the money from the escrow account, $37.8 million which was designed to go to refund taxpayers who paid the tax after a court struck it down. Sewell says if $13 million is granted in legal fees to the plaintiffs' lawyers, the taxpayers will be responsible for repaying the money to the county.
Jim McFerrin, one of the three attorneys who sued county, says it has been a hardship on him and his family. "For three years I foolishly took the battle to fight the Jefferson County Commission from taking something out of everyone's pocket. So far I haven't made anything," McFerrin said.
McFerrin says it will be up to DeKalb County Judge David Rains how much legal fees will be if there are any.
Commission President Bettye Fine Collins says the county will oppose $13 million in legal fees. "The citizens of Jefferson County have been victimized by the lawsuit two or three people filed in class action lawsuit," Collins said.
Commissioner Shelia Smoot wants a detailed legal bill from the lawyers. "I want a deliberate accounting not only for the county, but their clients they claim to be fighting for. What did they do? "Smoot said.
One thing McFerrin and the other lawyers plan to do is fight Jefferson County's efforts to recollect the job tax refunds. "We are going to do anything we have to make sure the people get their money," McFerrin said.

A status hearing is set for Friday with Judge Rains in Jefferson County.

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