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By Daniel Ritz

THE LATEST: On Oct. 26, after a staff agenda report presentation from Asst. City Manager Mike Killebrew, the Dana Point Financial Review Committee voted to continue the current contracted city attorney legal representation program.

Since 2002, Dana Point has contracted with private law firm Rutan & Tucker LLP, currently at an hourly rate of $253 per hour. The annual cost for the 2018 fiscal year for an estimated 2,835 hours of work from Rutan & Tucker equates to $717,255, or $140,000 dollars below the city’s current budget of $857,000 dollars.

The city’s staff agenda report computed three options estimating personnel costs based on the last five and one-half calendar years of billings.

The report states, “…an estimate was produced of the annual attorney work hours needed to cover each category of the city’s legal needs. This number is debatable, but assumptions have to be made in order to compute estimated costs.”

In scenario one, computing the annual cost of personnel and other costs to support a fully-staffed in-house city attorney department were estimated at $683,700. Scenario two, based on employing only an appointed City Attorney and contracting out all additional work came out to just under $700,000. Scenario three, which included employing an appointed city attorney and an assistant or deputy city attorney and contracting out all additional work including specialty work, ranged from $615-$635,000.

Another hot topic of conversation was a detailed table comparing Orange County cities and their populations, manner of representation and the 2018 fiscal year legal representation budget. Currently, only four of 34 Orange County cities have in-house staff servings as city attorney’s. These include Anaheim, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.

After much deliberation, which included a lengthy discussion concerning the staff report’s “Considerations for Selecting an Attorney” section, the committee voted 3-2 in favor of continuing the current contract city attorney model.

Killebrew noted, “as the city’s risk manager, I feel compelled to advise that when considering who to choose to provide legal advice, the city should view risk management as a critical factor in the decision. Less than the most skilled advice can and does result in legal losses, large payouts or settlements, and can easily cost much more than any savings that might be gained by selecting a lower-cost legal advisor.”

A link to the agenda report can be seen here

The next Financial Review Committee Meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 28, from 4-6 p.m. at the Public Works Conference Room at Dana Point City Hall at 33282 Golden Lantern, Suite 212. The agenda, when made available, can be seen

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