Our attorney should serve us, not protect them.
Compare our situation with other state and local government attorneys. The state has a chief prosecutor, the Attorney General, paid about $87,000. We elect him or her at state general elections. The county has a chief prosecutor, the District Attorney, paid about the same. We also elect that person at state general elections. State general elections have a lower cost per voter for a higher turnout. That's why we should move City elections to November.
The city has a chief prosecutor, the City Attorney, but we do not elect that person at state general elections or at any time. That person is picked in a backroom political deal with a sweetheart contract. A prior City Attorney, Patricia Kelly, left with a five-figure payoff as a gift of public funds. Her successor, Christopher Melcher, also left with a gift of public funds. His total payoff was $139,138. See documentation in C.S Independent article here. Today's City Attorney, Wynetta Massey, is a career bureaucrat who "persuaded" the Council to pay her $192,000 yearly, plus benefits and other gifts.
This petition is short and simple. We fix the payment at $120,000, more than enough to attract many capable candidates. Remember, the City Attorney has no overhead--no staff costs, utilities, rent, supplies, advertising, or other business expense. That payment is pure profit, and 25% more than the mayor's current salary. It is very generous. It cannot be increased without voter approval of a charter amendment, so Council cannot add gifts, bonuses, pension contributions, a free car, severance pay, or other payoffs. A flat $10,000 per month, less tax withholding, is more than fair.
The City Attorney also gets over two dozen attorneys to help with the workload. No staff attorney should make more than the boss so, without cutting current salaries, future staff attorneys will make less than the City Attorney. They must be chosen by the Council, which has the power and duty to make all appropriations of money. The principle of the rule of law was stated in the Magna Carta in 1215, 800 years ago next June 15. It is a bedrock principle of constitutional government our City Hall is ignoring.
If an outside attorney is needed, that person will be hired only by the Council at a payment fixed by the Council. For over a decade, the City Attorney has illegally spent about $3 million a year hiring his or her friends at rates up to $950 per hour. No, that's not a typo. See Independent articles here and here. The City Attorney sprinkles the cash around so law firms will never sue City Hall (it would be a conflict of interest with their other client). $3 million each year for decades would have fixed a lot of our infrastructure!
That City Attorney theft of funds is illegal and a Charter violation. Only the Council gets to appropriate money; it's called the power of the purse. You may remember it from grade school. It's part of the separation of powers, called "checks and balances." It is one of the many ways City Hall shamefully violates our American system of limited government.
The elected City Attorney will be accountable in general elections every two years. With all elected officials, the option of a recall petition is also available. Since an elected City Attorney cannot be fired by other elected officials, there will be no more cover ups for the Mayor or Council members. An independent City Attorney will serve the public and enforce the city Charter, but not be able to hire a big bureaucracy or dish out millions of tax dollars to friends.
Let's fix this mess. Sign the petition and vote in April for this basic fiscal reform. Vote for your right to vote for an elected leader, a fearless independent prosecutor and reformer who will represent us, not act as a criminal defense attorney for lawbreaking and unethical City Hall politicians.