Thursday, December 13, 2001
City Attorney Hints at New Revenue Sources as Panel Approves Hiring Three More Lawyers
By a MetNews Staff Writer
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s bid to hire new lawyers and start up a costly but popular new community prosecutor program while other departments are slashing their budgets by 10 percent cleared a key hurdle yesterday in a City Council committee.
Encouraged in part by Assistant City Attorney Terree Bowers’ promises of as much as $15 million in new revenue and millions more in savings from better risk management and beefed-up collections, the Budget and Finance Committee put its stamp of approval on hiring three new lawyers and four support staff dedicated solely to handling lawsuits sparked by last year’s Democratic National Convention.
Bowers said the new hires would come as part of a concerted effort to bring more work in-house-taking advantage of a unique opportunity afforded by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the downturn in the economy.
“Some people are re-evaluating their careers and looking at public service,” Bowers told the panel. “As a result we are looking at a number of outstanding resumes...from the very same associates for whom we otherwise would contract out at three times the cost.”
The City Attorney’s Office does not have extra money for the new hires, but officials predicted cost savings in the long run from the reduced cost of sending work to outside firms. If approved by the full council, the new DNC team would share some support resources with the city attorney team now devoted to defending lawsuits arising out of the Rampart police scandal.
When the DNC litigation has concluded the lawyers and staff eventually would be absorbed into the regular city attorney payroll, taking the place of some of the 20 or so employees on average who leave each year.
Delgadillo’s office ran into a little more resistance in its request for $2.5 million to pay for lawyers to staff community prosecution offices in each council district or police division. But committee chair Nick Pacheco-who unveiled the program with Delgadillo last month-agreed to put the item over for a week to give the officials time to further analyze how much money will be needed to provide offices and equipment, and where it will come from.
Faced with a $180 million budget shortfall, Mayor James Hahn last month called for each city department to identify cuts or other savings of 10 percent.
Budget and Finance Committee member Jack Weiss said he shared his colleagues enthusiasm about the community prosecutor program, but he noted that it came during the same time his colleagues are seeking additional money for a housing trust fund and for new security-and trying to plug the hole in the current budget.
“These kind of expansions are usually done in the context of budget deliberations,” Weiss said, referring to the talks that are due to start next spring on the 2002-2003 budget.
The charge to trim the budget applies to the City Attorney’s Office as well as well as other city departments. But Delgadillo, who has vowed to cut liabilities that grew dramatically in the 16 years that Hahn served as city attorney, has argued that new programs will save millions in the long run after a modest investment up front.
Pacheco agreed with him, telling his colleagues yesterday he was unwilling to put off the community prosecutor program in a time of rising crime.
“I am just tired of going back to the community empty-handed on the question of how they deal with crime,” Pacheco said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company