Spending for the attorneys was gleaned from some 200 pages of documents released by county officials to a government watchdog group in the past week. Open Monterey Project officials were seeking the billing documents since spring 2007 under the state Public Records Act.
"The issue is transparency and accountability," said Michael Stamp, attorney for the group. Stamp provided the spending estimate after reviewing billing documents, and said it would likely reach $445,000.
The group filed suit in May 2007 to obtain the outside-attorney billing records. But the county released documents with payment amounts blacked out.
County officials contended that premature public release of the records could cost the county more money by revealing its legal tactics and financial commitment in the cases. The county took the position that the billing records were exempt from public disclosure because they were part of pending litigation.