Gary attorney gets another contract with city
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent November 15, 2012 2:28PM
Jewel Harris Jr. in 2006. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:50PM
GARY — The Gary Sanitary District no Wednesday gave board attorney Jewell Harris Jr. another contract for his firm’s work with the board.
Harris, already working “on day-to-day business for the district” for $75,000 a year, will get up to $50,000 for “unforeseen litigation and special projects,” he said.
“This is for time my associates and I spend in the courtroom, for cases like United Water, and for other projects for the district,” said Harris, who played an active role in Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s 2011 mayoral campaign and is the son of former Gary powerbroker Jewell Harris.
United Water, a national water services firm that managed GSD operations until last year, was cleared of charges of fraud in federal court last week. Harris said his associates attended the hearing to report back to the district.
Earlier this year, GSD also awarded Harris’ law firm a collection contract to cure delinquent accounts in the city’s trash collection program. Allied Waste, the city’s trash collection company, will be replaced by another behemoth, Waste Management, in January.
Harris’ firm will get a 15 percent commission on whatever it collects. Since Sept. 13, the firm has collected more than $555,000 in delinquent accounts and will continue its efforts until the end of December or all accounts are caught up, he said.
Harris said delinquent property owners first get notices of their arrearages. Then, they can choose to participate in a payment plan of 40 percent down and the balance due in two payments over 60 days.
Afterward, Harris’ firm can sue and collect about 25 percent of any money awarded by the court.
Last summer, GSD reached an agreement with Allied Waste to pay $2.5 million in arrearages and current billing through the end of December. Harris’ collection results are applied against that amount, leaving a balance of about $800,000, said Dan Vicari, executive director of the GSD.