I’ll take city attorneys for $150K, Alex.

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Dan Coffey wants to hire a full-time city attorney. For those of us in attendance at the neighborhood forum during which he berated citizens for considering that very same measure as a potential aid to code enforcement, Coffey’s suggestion of following through with the full-time attorney idea should seem surprising. But it’s not. We know Dan Coffey.

We know that Coffey’s interest lays not in actually ensuring that the legal department has the resources necessary to carry out enforcement duties, but only in trimming an insignificant amount from a budget that’s already too small to accommodate mundane tasks that residents of other cities take for granted. We know that Coffey’s worldview doesn’t include an understanding of what it takes to effectively accomplish anything in a professional working environment. We also know that Coffey is unwilling or unable to conduct the research necessary to expand that worldview, as forum attendees did. Unlike those citizens who actually want to solve the enforcement problem, Coffey didn’t even consult with the City Attorney prior to introducing his ill-fated measure, putting forth a document so lacking in rationale and information that Council colleague Mark Seabrook said, “I don’t think it’s in any form to be voted on at this time.”

Now for the shocking news: The City of New Albany is spending $127,000 on legal matters this year. Even in bold print, it’s a yawn-inspiring bit of information. The city’s total operating budget for the year is about $28 million and legal fees will account for less than one half a percent of it. While Coffey continues to his highlight his own ignorance by incessantly quoting the number as an outrage from which citizens need defense, there’s simply no wonder as to why New Albany’s such an attractive business climate for absentee property rental.

A person who made a legitimate attempt to understand the situation would know that, according to Salary.com, the median salary in the Louisville market for an attorney with two to five years experience is $106,632 and that for one with five to eight years of experience is $141, 171. At a little over $41,000 part-time, current City Attorney Shane Gibson is actually underpaid for the number of hours he works.

That person would also realize that the political nature of working for a city’s legal department makes it less attractive for potential public counselors. City Attorneys are hired by the Mayor and therefore face the possibility of removal from office every four years, regardless of their own personal performance. Job security? A chance to make partner? Nope, just extra unpaid work to ensure that your employer retains the authority to sign your paycheck.

A reasonable person may conclude that there’s perhaps a better way to build a city legal department with a combination of part-time attorneys and paralegal resources that wouldn’t cost much more but would provide continuity, daily attentiveness, and create a more attractive work environment. Unfortunately, the person in question is Dan Coffey. According to him, there’s no reason an already gainfully employed, experienced attorney wouldn’t jump at the chance to give up his or her own private practice to work for less than market value with no job security.

Much like his Council cohort Steve Price, who’s done his damnedest to explain to constituents that “We already gave Shane a paralegal” when what actually occurred was a transfer of $16,000 to the legal department for a part-time administrative assistant, Coffey has no sense at all of how the professional world operates or which expenses therein are reasonable and which ones aren’t. It doesn’t really matter to him since he’s not actually trying to accomplish anything other than to make sure his personal disdain for government translates into weakening its ability to acheive so he can blame someone for it later. It just may, however, matter to those in Coffey’s district who expect their vote to translate into solution-based government.

New Albany considering hiring full-time city attorney
Matt Batcheldor, The Courier-Journal

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