Payment Predicament

During the past three months there has been a lot of conversation about the negativity generated by controversy over Snellville not paying the interim City Attorney. But there are also positive results from the discussions. I believe that we have firmly established the fact that a majority of council members take their fiduciary responsibility seriously. We have never questioned whether or not we should pay the attorney. We have always questioned the amounts the city was charged for the services provided. This seems to have gotten lost in the controversy, so it’s important for our citizens to understand that as a Council, we want to assure that everyone is treated fairly—that means the taxpayers as well as the people who are hired to provide goods and services.

All too often, elected officials (at all levels) seem to lose sight of the fact that government should operate with the same fiscal responsibility as a private company. Although many aspects of public and private sector operation differ, government is essentially in the business of supplying services. The taxpayers are both its customers and its shareholders, and to satisfy both, elected officials should strive to ensure delivery of the best possible service at the lowest possible cost.

With respect to the interim City Attorney, my concern has always been that Mr. Oberman’s charges far exceeded the quality of service he provided. Some of his legal opinions were flawed and he subsequently developed second opinions that contradicted the first. There’s nothing inherently wrong or unusual with that, as additional research frequently uncovers new information that alters the complexion of an issue. However, it does not seem right for the city (and consequently the taxpayers) to be charged for one opinion on a matter and then charged again for a second opinion that contradicts the first one. In at least one particular instance, no new information emerged that was relevant, a pre-existing opinion (by the previous city Attorney) was available, and at least three other cities had previously established precedent which demonstrated that the first opinion was incorrect.

It is my hope, as well as that of other Council members, that we can quickly reach an equitable resolution to this issue. I have suggested to the mayor that we negotiate and determine an amount that is fair to both Mr. Oberman and to the taxpayers who are paying the bill. Resolution of this issue is certainly long overdue. However, it is certainly not in the best interests of our citizens to sacrifice fiscal responsibility in the name of expediency. This issue can be resolved equitably, and I believe members of Council are dedicated to assuring that we do reach an agreement that is fair to all involved.

Another positive note with respect to the City Attorney—we have a new one. Kevin Tallant has exceptional credentials and a wealth of experience in municipal law. I’m looking forward to working with him, and I’m confident he will do an outstanding job for the city.

Click the links below for more “Council Confidentials”.

Changing the Charter

Adventures in City Attorney Land

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