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Legal Transition Policy Committee Report

Legal Transition Policy Committee Report

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Published by Timothy Gibbons

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Published by: Timothy Gibbons on Aug 08, 2011
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08/08/2011

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 MAYOR-ELECT BROWN– RECOMMENDATION FORM1.
 
Committee:
 Transition Legal Committee (“TLC” or “Committee”)
2.
 
Presented to Mayor Brown on August 8, 20113.
 
Description of Actions Taken by Committee:
 The TLC held five meetings in the course of its work. Each meeting was preceded by publicnotice and was open to the public in accordance with Florida’s “Sunshine Law” requirements.During those meetings, the TLC held discussions with several guests who were invited based upontheir knowledge of issues relevant to the Committee’s work, including operations of the Office of General Counsel (“OGC”) and its relationships with its clients. The invited speakers andinformation provided included the following:1) General Counsel Cindy Laquidara;2) Former General Counsel Fred Franklin;3) Circuit Judge and Former General Counsel Charles Arnold;4) Former Jacksonville City Councilman Howard Dale;5) Deputy General Counsel Steven Rohan;6) Jacksonville Electric Authority CEO Jim Dickenson, including follow-up information;7) Jacksonville Electric Authority CFO Paul McElroy;8) Deputy General Counsel Howard Maltz;
 
 9) Inquiries via electronic mail to former General Counsels, city constitutional officers andindependent authorities;10) Former General Counsel Rick Mullaney through the Committee’s staff liaison;11) Duval County Superintendent of Schools Ed Pratt-Dannals (through a Committeemember); and12) Duval County Public Schools Human Resources Director Vicki Reynolds (through acommittee member).13) Overview and detailed budgetary documents relating to the OGC’s budget for fiscalyears 2009-10, and 2010-11.14) Background information on the organizational structure and clients of the OGC, and adocument discussing the work of the OGC prepared by Deputy General Counsel Howard Maltz.
4.
 
Issues/Observations:
 a.
 
Budgetary Issuesi.
 
 Attorney Billing  The OGC engages in a billing process similar to that found in many private law firms.Specifically, the OGC records the hourly work of its attorneys and then charges the client agenciesand independent authorities an amount equal to the number of hours worked by attorneys withinthe office on a given legal matter multiplied by the established billing rate. The practice of tracking billing hours for OGC attorneys is intended to have a twofold purpose: A. Tracking the hours worked by attorneys allows the OGC to monitor theutilization of its attorneys and the efficiency of the legal services being rendered; andB. Tracking the billing hours of the OGC attorneys is necessary in order to furnishbills to clients of the OGC that are deemed independent authorities (e.g., JEA, Jacksonville Aviation2
 
 Authority, Jacksonville Housing Authority, Jacksonville Port Authority, Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Duval County School Board). The distinction between these entities and the many City departments and agencies is that the School Board and Authorities must compensate
 
the OGC forthe work performed
 
in actual dollars from their budgets. Legal work performed for departments isessentially a bookkeeping matter consisting of no actual payment of funds. Consequently thesebilling / legal representation dynamics to the Authorities and School Board have material impact onactual taxpayer dollars. The Committee learned that the billing rates set by the OGC are arbitrary in nature, and donot necessarily correspond to the complexity of the legal work being performed, or to the prevailing market rates for comparable legal services rendered by attorneys in private practice with the samelevel of experience. For most of the OGC’s clients, such as the offices of the Executive Branch orthe City Council, the billing rates set by the OGC are immaterial since the expenses associated withproviding their legal services are ostensibly covered in full by the OGC’s budget. However, theindependent authorities pay “real money” to the City for the legal services rendered by the OGC. Itis acknowledged that the independent authorities typically pay substantially less money for legalservices received through the OGC than would be the case if the services were acquired through aprivate law firm. However, the TLC also heard from clients who felt they could save significantsums of money from their legal budget if they were permitted to hire their own in-house generalcounsel with experience in highly specialized legal areas, such as energy regulation and specialeducation. Additionally, it was suggested to the Committee that the billing rates of the OGC are notintended to be set according to prevailing market rates, but rather with the goal of partial costrecovery for the legal services rendered.ii.
 
Control of Certain Components of OGC Budget The Committee learned that the OGC currently lacks effective control – and perhaps, theability to provide any meaningful input – on several components of the OGC’s budget that can3

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