Legal Fees Or Legal Fiasco?

Today’s Orange County Register article, Legal Fees Climb As City Fights Election Lawsuit closed with this comment, “This is a very sad waste of taxpayer money,” Murdock said. “The hypocrisy is sad.”

Murdock MPT 2This from the guy who failed to disclose his leadership of the Breans Against Measures T & U PAC… and who was sanctioned/fined $2,000 by the FPPC for it. This from the guy who thinks it’s okay to spend taxpayer money to join his buddies on an all expenses paid vacation. This from the guy who has no clue how the City really spends it’s money or if it does so wisely.

While the article about the lawsuit and subsequent legal fees is essentially accurate on most counts, I believed there was a need for some serious filling in of the gaps. This morning I had a lengthy meeting about this with Chris Haire, the OCR staff writer, and, for the most part, he understood where I was coming from. When the final appellate decision is rendered, watch for Chris to cover it… early next year I’ll wager.

Was the legal expense absolutely necessary?

In a word, no. The city was informed by letter of their alleged violation of election law, the forbidden alteration of documents submitted to the Registrar of Voters, with more than sufficient time to rectify their error, at no cost.

tim_2aI guess the City Manager and City Attorney felt there was no reason to respond. I don’t know how you would describe this conduct, but I call it arrogant and inappropriate.

This wasn’t a simple typo folks. It was a purposeful alteration of the true attribution of statements opposing Measures T and U. Leaving off the name of none other than the guy who got fined for hiding his connection to the PAC opposing Measures T and U. Coincidence?

The smoke and mirrors continues.

Portraying the case as moot and again pointing the finger at Steve Vargas as the cause of this expensive legal battle, City Attorney James Markman craftily redirects attention away from himself and the huge fees his firm has charged the city to handle the case.

Personally, I don’t believe either the casual dismissal of the suit’s significance or the continued character assassination of Mr. Vargas to be right or true.

Let’s take a closer look at the fees.

jmarkman_bAs reported by Markman and City Finance Director Bill Gallardo, the fees to date are approximately $154,000.

What? Are you flippin’ kidding me?

Markman’s rate, as I recall, hovers around $500/hour… but there are two other attorneys from his office involved, and I’m assuming paraprofessional or clerical staff as well.

So, let’s adjust the rate down to a more believable average of $300/hour. That’s 513+ hours to reach an invoice for $154,000.

In 40 hour weeks, that’s a total of 12.8 weeks… over three months of doing nothing but working on this single case. Protected by work product or attorney/client privilege, we’ll likely never know how Markman’s firm came up with that figure. But you can’t convince me that it’s fair or reasonable.

Instead of handing Markman’s firm a raise, Council should have asked the question, “How in the h_ll can you explain this?”

Why is this not a moot point?

politician_liar_150Like raising kids, parents need to determine if an unacceptable act is due to childish misbehavior or willful disobedience. Given that the alleged violation occurred on two documents, on two occasions and is eerily similar to the lack of transparency regarding leadership of the Breans Against Measures T & U PAC, I’m thinking this looks a lot like willful disobedience.

Never mind that the election is long past. Who knows how this might have effected voter’s or not? Having found that the City did alter documents when it had no right to do so, a line needs to be drawn in the sand that says, “Don’t do this again or you will face more serious consequences.”

Where would you rather spend the $154,000?

An email I received when the first hint of the story broke posed, “With $2.50 senior meals now the bitcoin of the realm in Brea, how many senior meals could be provided with the wasted legal defense fees related to the Measure T & U lawsuits?”

Good question Mr. Remains Anonymous… damned good question.