The battle over the City Attorney’s outside counsel budget continues today.  From the staff report:

    8. Staff Reports
    A. Budget Amendment for the Office of the City Attorney to Pay Billings from Outside Legal Counsel for Services Rendered and to Pay Litigation Expenses Previously Incurred.

    Motion 1:               That $140,884.93 be transferred from the unappropriated budget reserve balance to line item # 001-050-5503 (Litigation/Outside Counsel) and that $26,771.75 be transferred from the unappropriated budget reserve balance to line item 001-050-5177, (Litigation Expenses).

    or, in the alternative,

    Motion 2:              That $622,652 be transferred from the unappropriated budget reserve balance to line item # 001-050-5503 (Litigation/Outside Counsel) and that $300,636 be transferred from the unappropriated budget reserve balance to line item # 001-050-5177 (Litigation Expenses).

     

    Synopsis of Previous Council Action:

    1.  Final 2010/2011 Budget adopted on June 30, 2010  included a $410,000 loan from City Attorney’s 2011/2012 budget.  The City Attorney’s Office had submitted a budget in the amount of $3,965.108.00, however the budget adopted for the City Attorney’s Office was $3,026,000.

    2.  On May 25, 2011 the Finance department reduced the 2011/2012 City Attorney budget by the $410,000 loan which left the revised budget at $3,026,000.

    3.  On August 1, 2011 the City Attorney’s Office requested a budget increase to pay outside counsel however the Mayor and Common Council further reduced City Attorney budget by $6000.00 in order to pay outside counsel.

    4.  On August 15, 2011 the City Attorney’s Office requested an increase of $197,000 for outside legal bills and Mayor and Common Council approved that amount to pay those bills but also further reduced the City Attorney budget by that amount.

    Background:

    The City Attorney’s Office does not create lawsuits. People sue the City for a variety of reasons.  All of these lawsuits must be defended or prosecuted by the City Attorney’s Office either with in-house counsel or outside counsel.

    The Mayor and Common Council have approved the hiring of  outside counsel in 40 of the 124 cases currently pending in the City Attorney’s Office.  84 cases are being handled by Deputy City Attorneys in-house.  The City is the defendant in 108 of these lawsuits and the City is the plaintiff in 16.   However, the appropriations to pay outside counsel and to pay litigation costs have not kept up with the 60% increase in lawsuits over the past two years.

    The City Attorney’s Office has received bills totalling $167,656.68 for outside counsel fees and litigation costs.  The Council has not appropriated sufficient funding to pay these bills all of which are bona fide and currently due and payable.  Should lawsuits be commenced against the City to recover the amounts due it is probable that a court will require us to pay all of the amounts submitted in addition to interest, attorney fees and court costs for the failure of the City to honor its contractual obligations.

    The amounts requested above in the first motion are for bills submitted for work actually completed.

    The amounts requested in the second motion above are the projected outside attorney fees and costs through the end of fiscal year 2011-2012.  (The Second motion was recommended by the City Manager who prefers that the entire matter be addressed at the same time, rather than bringing bills to the Council at each Council meeting between now and the end of the current fiscal year.)

    The City Manager informed the City Attorney on November 17, 2011 that the money to pay these bills should come from the City’s unappropriated budget reserve.

    Financial Impact

    $140,884.93 to Account # 001-050-5503, and $26,771.75 to Account # 001-050-5177. Both sums from the unappropriated budget reserve balance. Account Description: <> Balance as of: November 17, 2011= 0. Funding source: unappropriated budget reserve balance.

     

    I believe that this is the first post-election battle regarding the San Bernardino City Attorney’s Office.  Even though the Council majority will change, the new members have not been sworn in, so expect fireworks if you are watching live.

     

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