The court-appointed monitor who oversees the FDNY’s controversial minority-hiring program has burned through more than $3 million in taxpayer money so far — and he’s just getting started, the city’s top lawyer says.
Attorney Mark Cohen’s latest bill, for legal work during the past two months, totaled $431,819, according to Brooklyn federal court papers filed last week.
“The city has repeatedly expressed concerns to the court about the size of the court monitor’s bills,” city Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo said in a statement to The Post.
“The invoices have been increasing, rather than becoming more reasonable, as he becomes more familiar with the issues.”
Cohen, a former federal prosecutor and white-collar litigator, was appointed by Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis in 2011 to ensure the FDNY fairly recruits and hires minorities.
Cardozo has said Cohen, appointed in November 2011 to the 10-year gig, can be expected to bill a grand total of about $20 million.
The feds sued the city in 2007, accusing it of discriminating against minorities in its hiring of entry-level firefighters.
In his latest bill, Cohen said the city needs to cough up a total of $431,819, including charges for the preparation of his fifth periodic report for the court ($80,526 at $650 per hour), for a stay request due to the government furlough ($7,730) and for paralegals ($1,584 at $165 per hour).
City lawyers tried to rein in Cohen’s costs last year, accusing him of padding the bill with “unnecessary work.” But Garaufis, the only person who can fire him, rejected their attempt.
Garaufis also this year awarded the Vulcan Society, a black firefighters association, $3.7 million to cover its legal fees in its separate discrimination case.
Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.
The city said it had no way to dispute Cohen’s bills.
“Unfortunately, the city has no viable mechanism to challenge these extraordinary bills, the payment of which must be borne by the taxpayers,” Cardozo said.
In a June 2012 letter to Garaufis, Cardozo fumed, “While the court monitor offered reassurance that it was his aim to be efficient and cost effective, there appears to be a great deal of wastefulness in the approach to this case thus far.
“He has billed more than $300,000 for each of the two-month billing periods of his monitorship thus far.
“At this rate, the city’s taxpayers will be charged approximately $2 million a year for services that under the court’s order are to last for at least 10 years.”
Republished with permission of The New York Post.