Friday, May 4, 2012

Police Department Legal Bills

There are two special meetings planned for the North Bay Village Commission this month.  

May 10 @ 6PM - A meeting to discuss the staffing and organization of city departments.  

May 14 @ 6PM - Consideration of RFQ's for Legal Services.  

Mary 8 @ 7:30PM - The Regular Commission Meeting.   The agenda is not yet published but I will put it up when I get it.  

Regarding the Legal Services meeting on May 14, the city needs to always be evaluating if the money spent on legal services is the best value.   Our legal costs are out of control, but that is a symptom of management issues, not the result of billing and gouging.  The bulk of the legal bills are from the Police Department and reflect the Chief's decision to make routine management issues a firing offense for officers who are not part of the favored union.   

The judgment involved in these firings was political, not managerial.  In one case, the final arbitration ruling clearly said that the police officer should be reinstated and made whole.  Yet the PD continues to drag this out which will result in even higher legal bills and settlements when the matter is finally resolved.   

In another case, an officer was fired for violating department policy regarding speech in public forums.   That policy was instituted by the  police chief and has since been abandoned as nonconforming with current labor law and court findings.  It's pretty likely that this too will fail arbitration.  

A simple technical adjustment, cross charging the legal expense to the department responsible, would shine the light on where the money is being wasted.  If it was a commission action, then the legal bill is charged to the commission budget.  If it was utilities or permitting, that cost center takes the hit.   

If the city did this, the legal services alone for the Police Department would be their second biggest budget item after salaries and the commission and citizens would see clearly where the money is being spent.   

That would be real transparency.  Bad things happen in the dark.  

Kevin Vericker
May 4, 2012

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