by Pam Zubeck
Former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace:Given my extensive experience, I will be able to assess, in consultation with the city attorney and council, whether the city needs outside legal counsel in a particular matter. There are certain legal matters requiring expertise the city attorney's office typically doesn't have. For example, using outside water counsel in several matters involving the Southern Delivery System was very prudent. In each such matter where the city needs outside counsel, firms with appropriate expertise should be asked to present proposals and a merit based selection made. My experience will also be of assistance in the screening process.
El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen:There are times outside legal counsel is called for when there is special expertise required or timeliness; i.e. staff is not able to do research in the required timeframe. I do not have a preferred law firm but would look to engage those who have experience/expertise in the matter at hand.
$24 million [the five-year total spent on outside counsel] is a big number but I would want to review the cases referred before I commented.
My expectation is that the referred cases are not routine legal matters but are of a level of complexity that would reasonably justify the expense.
Former City Councilor Joel Miller:Outside legal counsel should be hired only for specialities, which are not represented via in-house counsel. In most cases, this limits excessive costs and keeps the focus on the specific legal issues at hand.
I do not have a "favored" law firm, nor will I as Mayor of Colorado Springs.
If the decision is made that outside counsel is necessary, then speciality legal counsel relevant to the specific issue or the RFP process will be considered.
The following information was provided by the city in response to Colorado Open Records Act requests:In the next couple of weeks, I will be providing action plans on my website for my administration once taking office. I will provide one specifically for the City Attorney's Office. In the meantime it is clear that outside legal counsel certainly has a place in local government, and it is permitted in the Charter. It is especially reasonable if a particular expertise is required that our City Attorney's office does not possess. However, I think we can all agree that Mayor Bach's use of outside counsel was excessive. In my opinion, he used Hogan Lovell for issues for which they did not have particular expertise; he hired the law firm for Information Technology work,
when, surely, an IT firm would have been a better match. Mayor Bach also received work product from outside counsel that would've been beneficial to share with City Council, and he chose not to share that work product, even when Council requested it. Lastly since the authority to hire outside counsel in the Charter rests with City Council, procedures must be put in place to seek approval from and provide expense information to City Council.
Both branches need to work more cohesively with regard to the City Attorney's office and outside counsel. We should all be working for the same client, the people of Colorado Springs.