Tuesday, November 3, 2015

City Attorney Job Classification...Perception vs Reality

At the link below is the job description of the City Attorney, the highest paid employee of the City of Pensacola with a salary of $154,980.80 (yes, and 80 cents)

City Attorney Job Description

Lets look at some of the items listed as responsibilities and how the Bobblehead is doing.

  • Provides competent legal representation to the City in ALL internal and external matters.
  • Directing ALL legal aspects of the City's day to day operations including...litigation, contract negotiation...employment matters.
  • Negotiates, reviews and/or prepares documents including...contracts...real estate...litigation documents
  • Recommends the use of outside attorneys for specialized matters
  • Draft and/or reviews...contracts, leases
  • Plans legal strategy in litigation matters, represents the City in litigation, defends the interests of the city and its officers before courts, prepares pleadings, discovery documents, motions and briefs
If the Bobblehead was doing the above, why has the City allegedly spent over $2 million on attorneys?

Remember folks, the City's legal department includes:
  • the Bobblehead at $154, 980.80 (yes, and 80 cents), 
  • Rusty Wells at over $100,000 per year, 
  • the Public Records dude that Bowling brought with her from Texas (what's up with that?) at $65,000
  • Stephanie Tillery at $100,000
  • and a paralegal who makes $65,000
Add bene's at 25% and we are paying over $600,000 per year of INTERNAL compensation and benefits for City legal and allegedly still outsourcing over $2,000,000.

Total legal costs over $2,600,000 for a City of just over 50,000 people?

Now lets look at what the Bobblehead has led since arriving:
  • Studer lease review...nope, Beggs & Lane
  • Merrill/Russenberger litigation...nope, Kerrigan and Beggs & Lane
  • Bill Reynolds case...nope, Allen Norton & Blue
I do see where she is nugging out some mortgage foreclosure matters where the City has an interest.

That's big value for $154, 980.80 (yes, and 80 cents)


Anonymous said...

One of the basic flaws with this position is the name itself. The "City Attorney" does not represent me or any of the other residents of this city. The "City Attorney" does not represent the City Council. In Pensacola, the "City Attorney" is, and always has been, a personal employee of the mayor and only does whatever the mayor tells him/her to do. The "City Attorney" does not render sound legal advice if that advice disagrees with the mayor's wishes.

This is NOTHING NEW! This is exactly the way it was with the previous mayor. This is exactly the way it was with the last two "bobblehead" city attorneys. These guys are paid a salary and the guy that signs their checks is the mayor. They have absolutely no incentive to cross the mayor or, for that matter, to exercise any personal integrity.

Anonymous said...

It was not always this way. It became this way once we decided to replace the council/manager form of government with a strong mayor. The city attorney used to provide advice & counsel to the City Council, City Manager, department directors and employees. Now the city attorney just does what the Mayor tells her to do.

CJ Lewis said...

Each decade, law firms seem to operate more and more like legalized legal brothels with attorney's eager to sell any legal opinion money can buy to whoever is willing to pay them. I would trust a used car salesman more than I would trust most lawyers working in this city. At least a used car salesman knows that if they sell you a "lemon" you will not come back and may complain to someone. When the Mayor buys one nonsensical legal opinion after another, to include hiring labor lawyers to opine on the Charter's separation of powers (or lack thereof) between the Mayor and Council, no one complains and the Council says and does nothing. Sadly, character and integrity are no long traits associated with lawyers. An "independent" review of the Office of City Attorney, perhaps to be conducted by an independent commission appointed by the Council, would likely find countless examples of horrific legal advice "bought" at taxpayer expense from 2011 to present. This would include all of the advice given by "contract" City Attorney Jim Messer. While voters have no power to fix shortfalls in the legal community, they do have the power to amend their own city constitution to make the City Attorney more accountable through their elected representatives on the Council or directly to them as done in the case of the State Attorney and Attorney General. Right now, only the Mayor can hire and fire the City Attorney and it shows. In a Mayor-Council form of government, the Florida League of Cities calling it a Council-Mayor form of government, it is up to voters to decide who hires and fires the City Attorney. For example, voters could give to the Council the power to hire and fire the City Attorney with the Mayor having no or a limited role in the process. As another option, there seems to be nothing in state law I have found that would prohibit voters from electing the City Attorney. Based now on four plus years of bad experience, the one thing we know is that giving the sole power to hire and fire the City Attorney, subject only to Council rubberstamp approval, does not work. In 2011, Mayor Ashton Hayward fired City Attorney Rusty Wells but within days Wells wrote the Council saying he had instead retired presumably using a bit of legal trickery to keep his severance package for having been fired on paper. A commission appointed by the Council could also determine if the paperwork trail shows if Hayward respected (acted legally) or ignored (acted illegally) the Council's vote to terminate Wells. Hayward never said why Wells was fired, and the meek Council never asked, but we can assume by the low caliber of Well's work in the 2008-2011 timeframe that it was because he knew little about municipal (city) law. In 2015, Hayward also fired City Attorney Jim Messer. Hayward tried to claim that the Council had no say in the matter wanting to see how far he could push his claim of exercising what he calls his "supreme executive powers." Councilwoman Sherri Myers outfoxed Hayward creatively combining a motion to fire Messer (Hayward saying this time it was because he did not know much about municipal law) with a motion to hire current City Attorney Lysia Bowling. Hayward never knew what hit him as he sat there mostly in stunned silence. On the downside, Bowling's legal memos to date seen by the public would likely not pass muster in a first year law school legal research & writing class and Bowling has mostly taken a very passive approach to being City Attorney to include actually telling people aloud that she does not do much as City Attorney. Bottom line, one thing most voters would likely agree upon is that the current system is not working for "us" and we need to come up with a better way to ensure the City Attorney does his or her job putting "us" first. The Council seems unwilling to show leadership so the most viable option may be to amend the Charter to provided for an elected City Attorney.