A History Of Hiring Outside Counsel For The City

[One of the people that follows this blog has done some serious research into the history of the outside use of counsel for the city.  The city has two part time attorneys on staff but, as in the case of Mayor Yepsen, they commonly hire outside counsel.  According to this reader, the use of outside counsel radically increased into some whopping numbers during the administration of Scott Johnson].

John, A reader of your August 2 Post on the costs of City Council authorized outside legal services asks if previous administrations have acted in a manner similar to the situation currently much discussed.  Another reader notes that she ‘Will try to find the answer.’ Over the years many Council members, acting in their official capacities, have been sued and required legal defense.  The same is true of the Council as a whole acting in its legislative capacity.

The operative phrase here is “official capacity.” Council members and the Council when acting in their official capacities and in good faith are certainly entitled under State law to legal representation.  When acting in their dual capacity as private citizens they are not.  Additionally, recent administrations have heavily relied, a significant cost, on  private law firms to provide services to the Planning Board, to advise on labor matters, etc.  Some are on retainer.

Under a previous administration [JK: Scott Johnson] the costs of such out side legal services grew rather significantly.  As you know, the City attorney’s office is staffed by two salaried lawyers serving in a part time capacity and a full time executive assistant.  However, beginning in 2008 the mayor’s office initiated a policy of outsourcing many legal matters that resulted in spending far exceeding adopted budget authority.

No Charter mandated annual reports were, to my knowledge, ever prepared detailing this policy, the firms hired, services rendered, and costs incurred.  Thus, about the only way to reliably identify the these services and corresponding costs is to review Council minutes and budget appropriations and expenditures. This was done for the period 2008 through March 2011.  The results are details below.

The current Charter Revision Commission might want to conduct a review of similar costs since 2011 with an eye of recommending if Charter revisions should included a full time City attorney’s office and/or developing criteria for use of outside council.

MAYOR’S OFFICE EXPENDITURES FOR OUTSIDE LEGAL SERVICES: 2008 – MARCH 2011

Outside Legal Costs: 2008 – 2010 According to various reports prepared by the Commissioner Ivins’ Finance Office, Mayor Johnson has spent as much as  $587,000 on outside legal services during his first three (3) years in office, an annual average of nearly $196,000.

During 2009 and 2010, the Finance office reports in its adopted operating budgets for 2010 and 2011, that $294,846 was spent by the mayor’s office on outside law firms in 2009 and Finance projected that $209,735 would be spent in 2010.  In short, Finance reports that Johnson spent $504,581 on contract legal services in 2009 and 2010 alone and nearly $180,000 MORE than was originally budgeted.

The 2009 adopted City Comprehensive Budget appropriated a total of $175,000 for contract legal services and the 2010 appropriation was $150,000.  According to Finance, then, Johnson overspent original appropriations for 2009 and 2010 by over 55% ($180,000). 

First Quarter of 2011 During the first first quarter 2011, the rate of expenditures on outside law firms seemed to be even greater than in the two previous years.  Commissioner Ivins noted in his first 2011 Quarterly Financial Report for the period ending March 31, that the mayor’s office had already exceeded its entire 2011 expenditure.  Through the end of March a total of $103,778 had been spent or encumbered and an additional $91,778 had already been transferred into the account.  At that rate of expenditure the City would spend $415,000 on outside law firms alone in 2011.

Of course these costs were IN ADDITION to the salaries and benefits paid to the city attorney and the assistant city attorney AND DO NOT INCLUDE LEGAL FEES FOR BOND COUNSEL, MATTERS PERTAINING TO ASSESSMENTS AND NON-PAYMENT OF TAXES AND, IN SOME CASES, LEGAL SERVICES ASSOCIATED WITH THE CITY’S LEGAL ACTIONS AGAINST CHARTER REFORM.

The following tabular summary more succinctly shows the expenditures compared to original budget authority. Cost of Outside Legal Services and Authorized Original Expenditures: 2009 – March 31, 2011 Year

Original Budget    Reported Actual Expenditure    Difference 2009

$175,000                $294,846                                             + $119,    846/ +68% 2010                 $150,000               $209,735                                             + $ 59,735/  +40% 2011 thru

$96,000                $103,778 (inc. encumbrances)   + $  7,778 / +  8% March 31

TOTALS    $421,000             $608,359

Some of these were troubling.  For instance, in February 2010 the Council retained Bailey, Kelleher & Johnson, to advise City Council on City Attorney Scala’s workplace violence incident, $170/hr.  And in June 2010 the Council authorized the mayor to hire unidentified “outside counsel” to provide oversight of defense team in Anderson v. City trial at $200/hr., cap at $5,000.  That “council” was never publicly named.

I attended that trial and never saw any attorney present except for the then city attorney.  It would be interesting to determine who was given that contract and for what services.

Available Record of Outside Legal Counsel Hired by the Saratoga Springs City Council as Reported in the 2010 and 2011 City Council Minutes Overview This 10 page addendum to the report CITY EXPENDITURES FOR OUTSIDE LEGAL SERVICES: 2008 – MARCH 2011 is designed to provide supporting information on the City’s growing costs of legal services and the failure to spent within adopted budgets. It presents, chronologically, ALL non-Art. 7 and Bond Counsel hires by the City Council identified through a review of available online City Council meeting minutes for the period January 2010 through June 2011.

It is impossible to quantify the exact budget impact of the actions referenced below.  The costs were borne by different accounts in the City Attorney’s budget and in Account’s budget.  In one case the mayor referenced the possibility that the City’s insurance carrier would pay some of the contracted services.  An accounting should be required. A legitimate question is: Why cannot the City Attorney’s Office provide any of the legal services that the mayor [JK: Johnson] consistently uses “outside” counsel for? The entire City Council should be asking this question each and every time the mayor [JK:Johnson] seeks authority to spend even more on legal services that has not been budgeted.

What is known, based on data from Finance, is that the mayor [JK:Johnson] has at a minimum OVERSPENT original appropriations for outside legal services by at least $179,500 in 2009 and 2010 alone.

This year [JK:2011?] he has spent or encumbered nearly $104,000 through the first quarter and already OVERSPENT the entire year’s appropriation of $96,000.

Law Firms Hired during January 2010 – June 2011 The following law firms (excepting those referenced in Overview) were retained by the City Council to provide various legal services.

These firms were hired based on actions of the City Council reported in Council meeting minutes.

Miller, Mannix, Schachner & Hufner, LLC, to provide legal services to City land use boards, $160/hr., $20,000 yearly cap, Motion 10-13, Jan. 19, 2010

Bailey, Kelleher & Johnson, to advise City Council on City Attorney Scala’s workplace violence incident, $170/hr., $1,000 cap, Feb. 16, 2010

Miller, Mannix, Schachner & Hufner, LLC, to provide legal services to City regarding zoning ordinance amendments, $160/hr., $4,295 cap,

Motion 10-186, June 6, 2010 Unidentified “outside counsel” to provide oversight of defense team in Anderson v. City trial.  Council authorizes the mayor to retain counsel at $200/hr., cap at $5,000.

June 15, 2010 Harris Beach, Mayor failed to properly requisition for monthly retainer fee of $10,000 for period Feb. 2010 through June 2010 for “general labor advice.”  To honor the $10,000 invoice Johnson had to go to the Council.  Franck voted against the expenditure because “proper procedure was not followed.”

Fitzgerald, Morris, Baker, and Firth at $170 per hour, no cap, to provide the City with legal counsel on the recent actions undertaken by the Civil Service Commission in modifying the job responsibilities and abilities within the Building Department.   Motion 10-219,

July 26, 2010 Fitzgerald, Morris, Baker, and Firth at $170 per hour, no cap, to provide the City with legal counsel on the recent actions undertaken by the City Civil Service Commission in restricting the ability of the assistant building inspectors to issue building permits.  Motion 10-220,

July 26, 2010 Fitzgerald, Morris, Baker, and Firth, LLC at $200 per hour, no cap referenced, to defend the City in an Article 78 proceeding, matter of Saratoga Citizen, Inc., against John P. Franck, City Clerk of the City of Saratoga Springs, Motion 10-265,

August Brown and Weinraub as legal counsel for the proposed charter revision at $200 per hour, no cap referenced, and this will come out of his self-insured retention fund.  Motion 10-222,

July 26, 2010 Fitzgerald, Morris, Baker, and Firth, LLC at $200 per hour to defend the City in an Article 78 proceeding in the Matter of Saratoga Citizen, Inc., against John P. Franck, City Clerk of the City of Saratoga Springs,  Motion 10-265,

August 25, 2010 Miller, Mannix, Schachner & Hufner, LLC, to provide legal services to City land use boards, $160/hr., $20,000 yearly cap, Motion 11-23,

Jan. 18, 2011 Discussion and Vote:  Right to Appeal from Saratoga Citizen vs. the City of Saratoga Springs Court Decision, Motion 11-51,

Feb. 15, 2011, no firm named, no $ amount specified. Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to give the mayor permission and authorization to direct outside legal counsel to file a notice of appeal by February 17, 2011 in the matter of Saratoga Citizen, Inc. vs. the City of Saratoga Springs.  Discussion and Vote:  Permission to Perfect Appeal in Saratoga Citizen vs. Franck and Saratoga Springs. Motion 11-81,

March 15, 2011. Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to proceed with the appeal as filed; to perfect the appeal and present it to the Appellate Court for determination, no specific firm named, no hourly fee referenced. Mayor Johnson advised the previous estimates for the appeal ranged from $10,000 – $20,000.  After further negotiations, the figure has been reduced to $7,500 and to be capped at $10,000 for legal services for appeal.  This will come from the city attorney budget line. Ayes – 3 Nays – 2 (Commissioner Franck and Commissioner Ivins)

Council Meeting Minute Citations January 19, 2010 Discussion and Vote:  Authorization for Mayor to Sign Agreement with Miller, Mannix, Schachner & Hafner, LLC Legal Services for Land Use Boards (10-13) Mayor Johnson stated we’ve had this agreement with this firm for many years.  They provide good counsel to the City.  This agreement is for services on an as need basis for the land use boards.  They also provide assistance as needed by the City in the SEQRA process.  The agreement is from now through December 31, 2010 at a rate not to exceed $160/hr. with a maximum cap per annum of $20,000. Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to authorize the mayor to enter into the agreement as described.   Commissioner Ivins asked if the $160/hour and the $20,000 cap is the same amounts as last year. Mayor Johnson advised the hourly rate was $150/hour last year for this agreement.  Their hourly rate increased to $160. Commissioner Ivins confirmed that they had budgeted for $20,000. Mayor Johnson advised that was correct. Ayes – All

February 16, 2010 Note:  The following pertains to Scala hitting Scorocco in the head with DPW layoff notices in December of 2009 and the Saratogian’s subsequent FOIL request for the surveillance film of the episode.  Scala, in his capacity as Freedom of Information Officer, was compromised so the counsel hired special counsel to review the request.  Difficult to understand why the mayor could not have simply consulted with Robert Freeman at DOS. Executive Session Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Franck seconded to move to executive session for discussion regarding proposed, pending or current litigation; personal private information of a person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a person or corporation at 8:15 p.m. Ayes – All Council returned from session at 8:32 p.m.

Mayor Johnson reported one matter was resolved in executive session.  Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Ivins seconded to authorize the City to retain the law firm of Bailey, Kelleher, and Johnson for the provision of legal services to the City of Saratoga Springs involving alleged workplace violence legal matters assigned by the City Council on or about January 5, 2010 under the direction of the Office of Risk and Safety at the hourly rate of $170 and to be capped at $1,000. Ayes – All

June 6, 2010 Discussion and Vote: Authorization for Mayor to Amend Contract for Professional Legal Services for City of Saratoga Springs Zoning Ordinance Amendment or Re-codification (10-186) Mayor Johnson stated this is for the firm Miller, Mannix, Schachner, and Hafner.  This is for the continuation of the review of the zoning ordinance that began last year.  They are using as much in-house staff as possible to reduce legal costs.  The zoning ordinance was adopted in 1990 and has been amended over 300 times since then.  There has been a chapter by chapter review of the ordinance. The zoning advisory group did a draft revised table of contents.  The hourly rate for this firm is $160/hour and will be capped at $4,295 which is in the budget. Commissioner Franck confirmed the law firm is giving guidance. Mayor Johnson stated they do review what our staff does.  At some point we need the legal analysis that helps us get through the process.  Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to authorize the mayor to enter into this amended agreement. Ayes – All

June 15, 2010 Executive Session Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Franck seconded to move to executive session for discussion regarding proposed, pending or current litigation; personal private information of a person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a person or corporation, including collective negotiations at 9:51 p.m. Ayes – All Council returned from session at 10:30 p.m. Mayor Johnson stated there were matters resolved. Note: This Executive Session is interesting and problematic.  Council authorizes retention of counsel to “oversee present defense council.”  However, note that no firm or individual attorney was named.  The ONLY counsel appearing during the trial was Scala, the City Attorney.  Was he paid up to $5,000 in addition to his City salary to sit in the spectator section of the courtroom?  He would come and go but did nothing else.

Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Ivins seconded to add the retaining of outside counsel to represent the City for oversight of the impending trial Anderson Group, LLC vs. the City of Saratoga Springs, set to begin trial on June 21, 2010 in federal court in Albany; to oversee present defense counsel at well as protect the interest of insurance coverage on behalf of the City based upon certain disclaimer of coverage. Ayes – All

Mayor Johnson stated this is a decision made internally between the Mayor’s Department, City attorney, and Risk and Safety to hire outside counsel to better protect the City just as an oversight basis on issues involving insurance coverage between the City and its carrier for this claim.  The matter involves litigation presently pending in federal court, Northern District of New York, the Anderson Group LLC vs. the City of Saratoga Springs set to begin trial this June 21st.  The money to pay for counsel is in the budget under the self insured fund the City maintains.  Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Franck seconded to authorize the Mayor’s Office (mayor) in conjunction with the City attorney and Risk and Safety to retain counsel at a fee up to a maximum of $200 per hour with a cap of $5,000 aggregate to represent the City as oversight on insurance coverage issues to better protect the City in the event that we think it is in the best interest of the City to take certain stances during the course of litigation that would be insurance related.  Ayes – All

July 6, 2010 Note: Check the following out.  Appears that Johnson never prepared the necessary requisitions for these services and Franck votes against the authorization citing failure to comply with City purchasing procedures. Discussion and Vote:  Invoice for General Labor Matters (10-187) Mayor Johnson stated Harris Beach has been on a monthly retainer basis to provide general labor advice.  The invoices before the Council start in February 2010 and run through June 2010 for a total of $10,000 (the retainer amount of $2,000 per month).  Purchase requisitions were not obtained therefore these invoices must be approved by Council for payment. Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to authorize the payment of these invoices. Commissioner Franck explained this type of scenario occurred a couple meetings back with DPW.  He has to vote against this as the proper procedure wasn’t followed and if he voted for this he would be breaking his own office rules. Ayes – 4 Nays – 1 (Commissioner Franck)

July 26, 2010 Executive Session Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Ivins seconded to move to executive session for discussion regarding proposed, potential, pending or current litigation; personal private information of a person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a person or corporation at 12:49 p.m. Ayes – All

Council returned from session at 1:37 p.m.  Mayor Johnson announced the Council has a few things to report. Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to add an item to the mayor’s agenda regarding the hiring of Fitzgerald, Morris, Baker, and Firth at $170 per hour to provide the City with legal counsel on the recent actions undertaken by the Civil Service Commission in modifying the job responsibilities and abilities within the Building Department.   (10-219) Ayes – All

Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to authorize the Mayor’s Office to retain the firm of Fitzgerald, Morris, Baker, and Firth at $170 per hour to provide the City with legal counsel on the recent actions undertaken by the City Civil Service Commission in restricting the ability of the assistant building inspectors to issue building permits.  (10-220) Ayes – All

Commissioner Franck moved and Commissioner Ivins seconded to add an item to his agenda regarding the hiring of legal counsel for the proposed Charter revision.  (10-221) Ayes – All

Commissioner Franck moved and Commissioner Ivins seconded to hire Brown and Weinraub as legal counsel for the proposed charter revision at $200 per hour and this will come out of his self insured retention fund.  (10-222) Commissioner Franck advised as the City Clerk he received signatures on July 20th along with petition materials.  He has 30 days to certify this material.  He had some questions relating to the certification process, therefore felt it best to obtain legal advice from a firm that specializes in this to make sure the process is done properly.  Commissioner Scirocco stated he will support this as it is the right thing to do.  Commissioner Franck advised the Accounts Office used to handle a lot of election things in their office.  About 10 years ago it was all brought to the County; therefore it is best to seek legal advice on this.  Mayor Johnson stated he does not want the public to view the voting to hire legal counsel as an indication, pro or con, regarding if the Council feels this matter should be placed upon the referendum in November.  This step is being taken to fulfill their responsibility as a Council to the public as elected officials.

August 25, 2010 Executive Session Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to move to executive session for discussion regarding proposed, pending or current litigation; specifically the litigation titled Saratoga Citizen, Inc. versus John Franck, City Clerk of the City of Saratoga Springs at 2:04 p.m. Ayes – All

Council returned from session at 2:22 p.m.  Accounts Department Discussion and Vote:  Authorization to Retain Legal Counsel to Defend the City in the Matter of Saratoga Citizen, Inc., against John P. Franck, City Clerk of the City of Saratoga Springs  (10-265) Mayor Johnson advised in the absence of Commissioner Franck, he will be handling the Accounts Department agenda.  Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to authorize the Mayor’s Office to retain Fitzgerald, Morris, Baker, and Firth, LLC at $200 per hour to defend the City in an Article 78 proceeding. Mayor Johnson advised they have a short turnaround on this and need to be in court for a conference on Tuesday, August 31st.  He also stated the City has been placed in an untenable position in being forced to respond in this regard to hire further counsel for defense based on the actions of the Citizens group.  The Council has an obligation to the entire City to do what they feel is best to represent the City in this legal proceeding filed against them.  All that is being done today is to make sure the City has proper legal counsel to present the issue on behalf of the City on the de-certification process issued last week by the City on the petition for Charter change.  They believe the legal fees may be covered by our insurance policy; it is being submitted to our insurance carrier for indemnification of the fees.  They can’t confirm this due to the need to act quickly.  Ayes – All

January 18, 2011 Discussion and Vote:  Authorization for Mayor to Sign Agreement with Miller, Mannix, Schachner, LLP for Professional Legal Services for City of Saratoga Springs Zoning Ordinance Amendment or Recodification  (11-23) DRAFTMayor Johnson stated this is a follow up to what has been in progress since 2009.  The Council previously voted to retain this firm to assist the City in the review of the Zoning Ordinance.  The City has been working at length with outside counsel in this regard.  The role of the law firm has been as an advisor should the City need legal assistance.  The majority of this work has been done by our in-house staff. Brad Birge stated the last major update was 1990.  Since that time, there have been over 300 text and map amendments.  The language is cumbersome and is lacking a coherent and logical process for people to move through.  There was a full re-organization by functional category.  A lot of accomplishments have been made to date; they have completed 4 of the 8 new articles and ready for Council review.  The request is to approve the continued use of Miller, Mannix, Schachner, LLP.  Mayor Johnson stated this law firm has been retained for many years because of their expertise in land use and zoning issues. The agreement would be effective now and terminated December 31, 2011 at $160 per hour and not to exceed $20,000. Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Franck seconded to allow the mayor to execute the agreement with Miller, Mannix, Schachner as described. Ayes – All

February 15, 2011 Discussion and Vote:  Right to Appeal from Saratoga Citizen vs. the City of Saratoga Springs Court Decision  (11-51) Mayor Johnson stated the Council has a responsibility to decide if they will appeal the court decision.  The deadline to file a notice of appeal is this Thursday, February 17th.  He thought it was important for the Council to have as much time as possible to gather as many facts as possible regarding this situation and to reach a decision.  Regardless of opinions, they have the responsibility as a Council to best protect the City in all respects.  He can’t imagine not filing a notice of appeal in this matter.  If they don’t file the notice by this Thursday, they will waive their right to ever appeal the decision.  The matter before the Council comes down to the appeal being for the entire decision – his concern about the decision of the court is the denial of the City’s request to pursue an evidentiary hearing to see if the petitions were sufficient, dually executed or if there should be any concern for potential fraud in the petition process.  The second issue is the absence of the fiscal note when the petition was handed in.  There was nothing to indicate to the City at that point what the cost of transition would be or what the operating cost would be.  The issue is what the court had in its hands when it rendered its decision.  The court found there was no fiscal note required in order to have the petitions certified and placed upon the ballot. The fiscal note has an implication that goes beyond our City boarders.  The value of a precedent is enormous; there is very little case law on this.  The danger of not appealing the decision is a change could happen again and again.  This is not denying people the right of putting something on a ballot.  They have a responsibility as a Council that they believe they are doing everything that is lawful.  Whether it is popular, that is another issue.  His proposal is to allow the Council to file a notice of appeal by the deadline of February 17, 2011.  The notice of appeal will prevent the City from waiving any of their rights to further challenge the decision. When things are not resolved, it is his opinion to keep their options open.  They are not irresponsibly spending taxpayer dollars. Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to give the mayor permission and authorization to direct outside legal counsel to file a notice of appeal by February 17, 2011 in the matter of Saratoga Citizen, Inc. vs. the City of Saratoga Springs.  Commissioner Scirocco stated he grew up under the commission form of government and it works pretty good.  There is no perfect form of government.  It is good insurance to look at the appeal.  He has worked under the City commission form of government and under the County Board of Supervisors; both worked pretty well.  This will keep the option open – it is the right way to go. Commissioner Wirth stated this gives us the right to appeal and see all the options.  It is a legal step.  He is concerned about what the need is for the City.  He comes from another type of government in the Town of Hempstead.  There were 800,000 people with a supervisor and 6 councilmen.  This City is 30,000 people.  We should have an open mind so he will be supporting this. Commissioner Ivins stated when the petitions were first presented, Commissioner Franck suggested hiring legal counsel because either way the City was going to be sued.  In his opinion, the judge did not adequately address the fiscal note.  In the end, Saratoga Citizens finally provided financial numbers, however he feels it should have been presented with the petitions.  He does not believe it is a valid argument to say we spent unnecessary money. We will spend very little money if any to file the notice of appeal.  He is not favor of appealing this however that should not be implied that he supports what is being presented.  He believes there are some serious flaws in what has been presented.  Commissioner Franck stated he would be happy to show the legal bills; the amount is $28,000 and change.  There is no direct case law.  He knew from day 1 we would be sued either way.  He has problems relating to the legal fees on the other side; there is now way their attorneys would do $100,000 worth of work and only get paid $6,000.  They must have some kind of guarantee of getting their fees paid.  The judge did a half page about the fiscal note.  We wanted to cross-exam the witnesses but we weren’t allowed to do that.  It is still new law and he is guessing this will be appealed to the highest court.  His concern is here in Saratoga.  He is not going to vote for this because we are in mid February and the delay is not good.  If a charter review commission was set up, he would probably vote for this because they would need to know this information.  It is not an issue of money. Mayor Johnson stated the law allows the City Council to vote to form a commission and the mayor can form a commission.  He has been thinking about a commission and weighing the option.  The opinions in our community are very divided.  Tonight they have a related but separate issue; notice of appeal.  This issue should not be mixed with the forming of a commission.   Commissioner Franck stated if the Council goes forward and forms a Council commission; all that does is create another thing to be on the ballot.  The uncertainty makes him uncomfortable – that they don’t know what direction they are going in the City.  Ayes – 3 Nays – 2 (Commissioner Franck and Commissioner Ivins)

March 15, 2011 Discussion:  Disposition of Second Law Suit Re: Additional Petitions in Saratoga Citizen vs. Franck and Saratoga Springs Mayor Johnson advised there was a second lawsuit filed by Saratoga Citizen versus the City of Saratoga Springs and John Franck as City Clerk of the City of Saratoga Springs.  This was regarding the second set of petitions filed by the group to force it being placed on the ballot bypassing the Council.  We defended the City in court and a decision was rendered by Judge Nolan that dismissed their petition finding that the second set of petitions was prematurely filed; improperly filed therefore proper for dismissal.  It was a ruling in favor of the City. Discussion and Vote:  Permission to Perfect Appeal in Saratoga Citizen vs. Franck and Saratoga Springs (11-81) Mayor Johnson stated this is to proceed with the appeal to its conclusion.  In February of this year the City Council voted to authorize the filing of a notice of appeal.  Since the vote to authorize the notice of appeal, a significant development occurred that will increase the City’s chances for the likelihood of success for the appeal.  The NYS Conference of Mayors voted to join the City in the appeal and argue in support of our appeal.  The City is not paying the NYS Conference of Mayors in exchange for their joining in the appeal.  If we do not appeal, we place our City at risk of any future attempts by this or another group of not having a valid or fiscal note or budget, should they seek to later change our form of government.  This risk to the City is not reasonable.  Mayor Johnson moved and Commissioner Wirth seconded to proceed with the appeal as filed; to perfect the appeal and present it to the Appellate Court for determination.  Mayor Johnson advised the previous estimates for the appeal ranged from $10,000 – $20,000.  After further negotiations, the figure has been reduced to $7,500 and to be capped at $10,000 for legal services for appeal.  This will come from the city attorney budget line. Ayes – 3 Nays – 2 (Commissioner Franck and Commissioner Ivins)

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4 thoughts on “A History Of Hiring Outside Counsel For The City”

  1. SUPERB. This is what the people of Saratoga Springs need to understand. While many remain uninvolved, it does cost them money for the actions of their representatives. I had noticed that there seemed to be more lawsuits in the past several years as well as the previous administration actions to refer to “legal counsel” on many issues. Hopefully, the citizens start to recognize the issues. The money could be spent more productively.

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    1. Agreed, an excellent report. 5 stars for your researcher. Too bad this blog wasn’t online during the Scott Johnson administration.

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  2. Soooo…….we have two part time attorneys on staff, paid by the city. The City Attorney, and the Assistant City Attorney.
    And what services do they provide? How much money do they get paid? What are their hours? How many hours do they work?
    Who do they report to?
    Just curious.

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  3. A shame Ms. Madigan was not Commissioner of Finance then rather than Ivins. Ivins doesn’t seem to have been as vigilant about city finances and proper procedures as our current Commissioner of Finance. I find it interesting also that while Commissioner Franck voted against approving some of Johnson’s legal fees proposals because proper procedures were not followed he had no problem voting to approve the payment of legal fees for Mayor Yepsen even though she had not gotten prior approval for the expenditure as required nor submitted an itemized bill.

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