While some Glasgow residents have criticized the Glasgow City Council’s decision to hire an attorney to investigate options concerning the potential removal of members of the board of directors of the Glasgow Electric Plant Board, it was the correct decision. These people consider the hiring of Glasgow Attorney Danny Basil at a cost up to $20,000 a waste of taxpayer dollars.
There was a bit of reasoning in the Council’s decision. Clearly, the Council wants the issue to be resolved in a timely manner. At the same time, there is dissention among the twelve elected officials and the mayor about how to proceed. It is obvious some council members and the mayor have differing opinions on the matter. Some believe removal and replacement of the three remaining board members would lead to a change in management. Others question if there is evidence that would merit a removal hearing to unseat them.
City Attorney Rich Alexander was in a perilous position on this matter. Months ago, he researched and reported to the Council about reasons appointed board members of a body can be removed. Not satisfied with his interpretation, some Council members persisted and ultimately concluded that an outside attorney would give a second opinion and, if warranted, could proceed with their yet-to-be determined goal. That was a valid move.
Undoubtedly, Alexander stands by his findings. If the Council assigned further work on the issue to Alexander, there is a great risk of him being accused of giving half-hearted service and some members of the council have publicly said just that. There is also the risk of being accused of being a puppet for Mayor Dick Doty who Alexander introduced as his best friend when Doty announced his run for mayor in 2014. There’s nothing wrong with that as every mayor should have at his side an attorney he trusts.
If the Council had directed Alexander to do more, he would have charged for his services as it would be outside his normal responsibilities as City Attorney. That amount of money could easily have approached thousands of dollars should the Council become involved in a lengthy legal action as some predict. As a matter of reference, an Open Records Request revealed that previous City Attorneys routinely bill the city for services outside of their normal work and for this council setting a cap is actually fiscally responsible and hasn’t been seen in recent past.
The possible expenditure of up to $20,000 for Basil’s services on half of the council is certainly not out of character. The City of Glasgow, and nearly every other city, is occasionally represented by legal counsel who is not the City Attorney. The difference in this instance is that it was a council decision made before the public about a controversial issue. In reality, the action was transparent and no one was trying to downplay the decision.
There are numerous cases in which attorneys other than the City Attorney have represented the city. In at least four recent cases, outside attorneys have been retained on behalf of the city by its insurance company in terminating city employees and defending lawsuits. While the city may not have selected the counsel, the taxpayers ultimately paid for their services when the insurance premiums were paid. In other cases, outside attorneys have been hired to serve as hearing officers and to perform various services because of their expertise in some matters.
A fact not to be overlooked is that members of the Glasgow EPB board of directors retained additional counsel themselves while they employ H. Jefferson Herbert as the board attorney. In that case, it’s the people who pay their utility bill who ultimately pay for those lawyers. Those complaining the city is wasting money paying Basil should make the same accusation for the other party.
Handled either way, taxpayer money would be spent in fulfilling the assignment given to Mr. Basil. It’s a wise decision that benefits the citizens of Glasgow and all of the parties involved.
Jeff Jobe is founder and CEO of Jobe Publishing, Inc. His commentary reflects his personal views and does not reflect the views of personal or professional associations and affiliations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his previously published commentary at www.jobeforkentucky.com