COSTA MESA — Transparency is a good thing and should not be coopted to promote a political agenda. Of course, that is not how Costa Mesa’s $3,000 a week public relations consultant see’s it. Apparently he sees transparancy as an opportunity to dump meaningless data on the public in order to support the outsourcing political agenda of the Orange County Republican Party and their lead “Town Crier” Jim Righeimer.
In a press release yesterday, consultant Bill Lobdell crowed about how the City’s legal bills had dropped significantly (on average) due to their outsourcing of the City Attorney functions. Funny thing about averages, they hide about as much as they reveal.
If you take a time of high litigation cost and compare it to a time of low litigation cost your averages will reveal that your costs have dropped. But when you compare apples to apples, using the numbers Lobdell promoted you find a much different reality. In 2003-2004 the in house legal costs for the City were $738,150. During 2006-07, the first full year with contracted law firm Jones and Mayer, the costs were $626,108. Initially the costs for legal fees were indeed lower.
But as with most services contracted out, costs seem to jump dramatically after the outside folks get their contract. The base legal costs for the city jumped by just under 26% to $800,943 in the second year of the contract. In used car sales they call this bait and switch; I just call it a scam.
Geoff West, over at A Bubbling Cauldron raised a couple interesting points about Lobdells figures here. First, he reminded us that a couple of the years prior to the hiring of Jones and Mayer, the legal costs for the City were significantly higher because of legal bills related to the “ill-conceived Benito Acosta lawsuits.” Second, West pointed out that “after all is said and done, the proof of the value of an attorney is the job he does for you in court – or keeping you out of court.”
Given the fact that Jones and Mayer had no problem changing their legal opinion to allow the illegal layoff notices to be isssued, their value is questionable given the legal fight the city is in for over that ill-conceived stunt.
So while Lobdell tried to spin the average reduction in overall legal fees for the City of Costa Mesa as a justification for outsourcing, the facts revealed by his figures show a very different story. To date, the city’s base legal costs have risen by more than 30% since Jones and Mayer came on board.
Seems like transparency isn’t working too well when it comes to supporting the alleged savings of outsourcing. I’m sure Lobdell won’t let these facts get in the way of the political agenda.