27 February 2018

WTC, Version 2.0 - Caught in a Loop: Newton County Government's $1.3 Million Addiction to Legal Counsel

Based on the numbers, Newton Co. is paying for 142 billable hours per week in legal fees

As this publication, along with many others in the community, has been saying for the last two years, the Newton Co. government is sick. It has a hardcore addiction - it's addicted to lawyers. 

For the better part of four decades we saw that as the ultimate root cause for our former million dollar attorney - Wm Thomas Craig, Esq. Now we know that it wasn't all Tommy Craig. It was a culture of our Board of Commissioners (BOC) members, as well as some department heads, needing a metaphorical wet nurse (county atty) to do just about anything.

That culture continues unfortunately, dear readers, and it's a fact that we all have to face. 

Now, some BOC members and others will tell you that the expenses are as high or even higher than Craig's because the previous edition of the Newton Co. left so many raging fires & that additional legal consulting & advice was necessary to right the ship to be able to move forward. And perhaps that's a valid point; however, this is what the numbers tell us: 

  • We know that the legal expenses for the most recent fiscal year available is approx $1.3 million
  • We know that Jarrard & Davis, the legal firm that represents Newton Co., charges an hourly rate of $175 (I knew I should've gone to law school...).
  • Ipso Facto that presumably means that Newton Co. had total billable hours of 7,429.
  • That works out to 142 billable hours per week - that's 3 1/2 attorneys working a full-time 40-hour work-week. 
Man...good work if you can get it, I guess. And then my mind turns to a Shakespeare quote, and also to an old joke about something at the bottom of the sea.

I keed, I keed... 

But seriously, this is outrageous! But again - let's put the blame squarely where it lies - not necessarily on the county attorney, but on the folks in positions of authority who can't seem to function without it.

And that reminds me of something I saw in the plethora of documents vis-a-vis the NCRC fiasco where we saw our BOC Chair saying that a certain department head never did anything without talking to legal first. Even if Jarrard & Davis does the industry standard minimum of a 6-minute increment - that's still $17.50 for a 30 second phone call.

Newton County must do better, and the solution is an obvious one: