Arroyo Grande needs to dump its city attorney
December 1, 2014
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
The question posed at last week’s Arroyo Grande City Council meeting by newly elected Mayor Jim Hill revealed a $32,000 expenditure for just one month’s work by legal counsel.
This is a billing trend that began with the now infamous July 3, 2014 incident. A search of the Carmel & Naccasha, LLP law firm’s invoices indicate that the city’s legal workload has been directly affected to the detriment of city coffers.
At the Nov. 25 city council meeting, legal counsel Tim Carmel explained that during the month of October he was fielding a large number of Public Records Act requests needing redacting and assisting with the outside legal investigation done by the Sintra Group. His explanation only leads to more questions, how independent is an “independent investigation” if the city’s chief counsel is assisting?
Carmel had handled the incident himself back in July, by assigning Deputy City Attorney Michael McMahon at $165.00 an hour to “investigate” the after-hour’s incident. The incident was quietly swept under the rug with a reprimand, keeping the public in the dark.
Carmel’s poor handling of the matter has become a make-work project for his law firm. Monthly invoices are averaging $7,000 over those a year ago. The firm did receive a three percent raise from the council in August, but that small increase taking hourly rates to $170.00, doesn’t equate to invoices jumping from $19,500 on average in fiscal year 2013-14 to $26,500 per month on average so far, this fiscal year.
Carmel has had a professional relationship as the Arroyo Grande attorney for over 21 years. According to Councilman Tim Brown, Carmel handled a previous incident with Adams and McClish giving them both second chances. That second chance was bungled, costing the city a tremendous amount of money and costing Adams and former Mayor Tony Ferrara their jobs.
As important as it is for the city of Arroyo Grande to “heal,” the city needs to take a good hard look at its legal representation. Carmel has become complacent and is being paid to be part of the city’s problems including cover ups.