When a $1.25 toll cost $300


Pena eventually pleaded guilty to bribery charges, lost his law license and was sentenced to 30 months behind bars. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Yet the scandals have continued. Take Chicago, for example, where Linebarger’s contract was terminated in 2008 because the firm had paid for the trip of a top city official. The bad blood didn’t last long though, with the city hiring it again in the same year.

“The incident … was embarrassing to say the least, but we worked very hard to earn another chance to represent the City,” said Vallandingham.

Meanwhile in Memphis, attorneys in a class-action lawsuit challenging the firm’s fees questioned Linebarger’s payment of millions of dollars to a local attorney who helped it win the city contract to collect taxes. After the lawsuit was filed, Memphis ended its relationship with the firm.

And in Texas, a partner was indicted in 2012 for covering up donations to a local elected official and his case remains ongoing. More recently, two Linebarger consultants have been at the center of alleged bribery schemes — one of which is heading to trial and another that is still under investigation.

Linebarger says the firm itself has never been charged with committing a crime and the actions of a few individuals aren’t representative of its overall business practices. But one former Linebarger partner, who asked to remain anonymous, said some of the firm’s tactics for getting contracts made him uncomfortable and didn’t always “pass the smell test.”

So how does Linebarger keep getting new business? The firm touts its longstanding work in the field saying: “we are hired and rehired because we are good at what we do.”

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