Dear City Council:
Yesterday I included you on my blog mail out even though only one of you accepted my invitation to receive my blog a couple of weeks ago. A large number of my blogs will be letters to you.
I am interested in knowing if you found that particular blog of value to you? The reason I ask is that I have already heard from some of my readers wondering why the legal fees to the City Attorney’s firm are so large and are growing so rapidly? Legal advice and representation is understandably expensive, but $7.4 million from FY 2010 through FY 2015 does raise some eyebrows.
It seems that I do recall that the level of money paid for legal services came into question a few years back and it appeared, to me, that there was some momentum growing to question those costs. Questioning included asking if taxpayer money would be saved if many of those services were brought in-house? Or if there were other qualified firms that might find ways to save the City some money after the current firm searched for savings and presented them to you? I do acknowledge that law firms perhaps don’t quite fit the same criteria as other professional firms, but I do know that a fresh look and new set of eyes is the rationale often used to look for staff replacement as well as outside consultants. Not because there is anything wrong necessarily – it’s just good business practices to question everything.
In fact, one of the toughest questions that reveals the level of tolerance someone has is to ask them if you fired everyone under your control today and allowed them to reapply for their jobs, would you hire them back? If your answer is anything but Yes, even if you pause for a minute, real transparency is in how you would answer that question and what you would do about a No or a Doubtful or Reluctant Yes.
You would expect a city manager to be doing that on his or her own, without being pressured by the council. But this is one of the costs that falls in your lap.
I listened to the three of you newly elected officials in front of a Tea Party audience when campaigning – talking tough on how you would be a superior councilmember. Look down my recap of the McKinney Check Register. You as a council don’t control all of those expenditures in reality. On the other hand, you directly control some of the biggest ones. I’ve got about two dozen on that list I am going to be asking you to examine in future blogs. The first is now related to these legal fees. You can fund a ton of pothole fixes and meaningful programs with just a small fraction of savings in legal fees.
I challenge all of you, especially the three puppeting the words of those who elected you to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.