Legal Services Outsourcing Question Revisited

The May 23 Committee of the Whole meeting contains this discussion item:

1) CONSIDERATION OF A DISCUSSION REGARDING LEGAL SERVICES FOR THE CITY OF DEKALB. The City Manager has received a request from a minimum of three aldermen to place on this agenda an item to discuss further the matter of outsourcing of our legal services functions.

For the record, I thought the old city council should have tabled the discussion in the first place, in favor of the newbies’ taking it up as budget business. Now this is happening, but we’ve wasted a significant amount of meeting time getting here. Also, under the circumstances of a possible Open Meetings Act (OMA) violation, the timing is interesting.

March 28: Consideration of refilling the city attorney position appears on the Committee of the Whole agenda. Consensus is reached for the council to review outsourcing proposals.

April 11: Motion passes to have staff prepare a Request for Proposal (RFP) to outsource lead city attorney functions only. Meeting includes a closed session to discuss personnel and collective bargaining.

April 18: Special meeting includes a closed session to discuss personnel.

April 25: Consent agenda includes a resolution authorizing the mayor to issue an RFP for attorney services. City manager’s memo makes clear the RFP would outsource all legal services, not just the lead city attorney’s as was decided April 11.

May 13: A letter dated and postmarked May 13 notifies involved parties that a Request for Review of a possible Open Meetings Act violation occurring April 18 has been accepted by the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor (PAC). (See more about the April 25 meeting and the RfR here.)

May 18: Outsourcing of legal services appears afresh, on the May 23 Committee of the Whole agenda. Manager’s memo makes a point of stating that a minimum of three aldermen had requested the issue be revisited.

As I said before, I’m glad the new council will make the decision on outsourcing. If it’s additionally an attempt to right a mistake, I’m not against that, either. However, I hope this does not obscure the apparent need to educate closed session attendees on the Open Meetings Act; and if the newbie council members were “invited” to request the outsourcing of legal for this agenda as a CYA maneuver, I hope they catch on quickly to this sort of tactic and what it says about city agendas outside of meetings.