COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Legal fees are adding up for Columbus taxpayers as a special prosecutor investigates police conduct during the downtown protests of 2020.
The city council is considering paying the prosecutor an additional $50,000 dollars, on top of a contract that began at $15,000 in 2020. Attorney Kathleen Garber was hired in August 2020 to conduct the investigation alongside retired FBI agent Richard Wozniak. The initial contract was for one year, but the timeframe and costs have since ballooned.
Two years after the protests sparked by George Floyd’s death, three Columbus police officers are facing misdemeanor charges and the investigation is still not over. Since the $15,000 contract was initiated in 2020, it was doubled to $30,000 in January 2021. In April 2021, another $50,000 was added, and with another $8,000 in November. If the city council approves the latest $50,000 increase, the contract will be worth $138,000.
Asked in 2021 for a response to the second price increase, Garber told NBC4 Investigates that she and Wozniak were having trouble getting officers to agree to interviews, something the police union argued they shouldn’t have to do.
“I don’t think anyone envisioned that the investigation aspect of this would take so long,” Garber said then.
In January 2022, an arbitrator decided officers could be ordered to testify as witnesses. Reached by email Monday, Garber said that development led to some delays in her efforts. Garber also said she was originally hired to only prosecute charges filed by another special prosecutor, who was supposed to conduct the investigation with Wozniak. Garber said that person became unavailable, so she took on both roles.
Of Monday’s proposed contract increase, Garber said she was unaware of it.
“I have never requested an extension of my contact or more money,” she said. “There is honestly not enough money in the world to make what I have endured and continue to endure worth it. This isn’t about money. It’s about seeing that citizens are given the justice they deserve and that officers are held accountable when they behave criminally.”
The trial for one of the three officers charged started earlier this month, and was put on hold after two days due to unforeseen circumstances for the prosecutor. A second special prosecutor has stepped in to help, and said the trial should start back up next week.
The city council declined to comment for this story.