Beach dentist working to determine attorney fees from eminent domain case

Dr. Allan Bergano outside of court on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. (WAVY-TV 10 Photo)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — For over two years, dentist Dr. Allan Bergano has fought the City of Virginia Beach for relocation benefits given to other doctors displaced by a road widening.

The city fought him on that and ended up going to court because in the end they told him he could stay in his building but he had already made plans to move and thought he should be compensated. A new policy from this case: When the city tells you to move, that’s when the clock starts ticking, and if they come back later and say, ‘You can stay,’ that is your option.

The city finally settled with Bergano for $175,000. WAVY’s Andy Fox has been told the city took that number from a 10 On Your Side investigation. In the report, Andy asked Bergano if he would accept $175,000. His reply was immediately, “Yes, but we weren’t offered that.”

Federal judge says city violated Va. Beach dentist’s constitutional rights

10 On Your Side asked Dr. Bergano if he is sad that this will end up costing taxpayers so much money, and he answered, “We are concerned about this… The city made a mistake… but we settled for $175,000 to keep the cost down for taxpayers. We wanted to save taxpayers money.”

Taxpayers are on the hook for that, and city attorney fees for Kaufman & Canoles attorney Hunter Sims in excess of $336,000, including expert witness fees and other fees. WAVY News asked Sims if he is disappointed the city didn’t make an offer sooner.

“I’m not disappointed this is litigation we had our side, and I think we were right. It didn’t quite turn out that way.”

What complicates this more for taxpayers, Bergano’s attorneys are in court seeking at least that much since they have been on the case longer than Sims. Sims has been on board about a year. Bergano’s attorney Joe Waldo has been on for a year and a half.

“I think it is fair to say that the final cost to taxpayers will be $1 million.”

What is most troubling about this case it is obvious that the ending would likely be the city loses. We know that because about a year ago during a hearing, Federal District Judge Henry Morgan told both sides, “You’ve got a citizen of the City of Virginia Beach practicing dentistry for 30 years. He was treated very unfairly by the city.”

It was a bench trial, and Judge Morgan is making the final decision. It was not a jury. It is no surprise a year later, that Judge Morgan ruled against the city.

Back in February, 10 On Your Side asked Deputy City Attorney Chris Boynton how could the city possibly win with a judge who thinks that? Boynton replied, “We get an opportunity to present our evidence. At the time he made that statements he had not seen any evidence but the plaintiff’s which are unproven unsubstantiated allegations.”

In the end, the city lost, and in turn, taxpayers will foot the bill. Boynton gave us these updated numbers for their legal fees: $274,000 for legal fees alone, $336,000 total including expert witness fees and other associated fees.

The two sides back in court June 22 to argue how much the legal fees should be for Bergano’s side.