Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Tuesday, 30 April 2024 11:34

RFP For More Lawyers Is A Potential Disaster

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics

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The Saratoga Springs Department of Accounts has issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) to law firms for legal services to be provided only to the Accounts, Finance, and Public Works Departments.

As the excerpt from the RFP documents, the legal services sought are pretty much for everything.

This is unprecedented. Based on this RFP, Commissioner Moran, Sanghvi, and Golub appear unhappy with and distrustful of the current City Attorneys and want their own legal representation.

Interestingly, they did not include the Public Safety Department. I don’t know if the exclusion of Commissioner Coll and Mayor Safford was because they were endorsed by the Republicans or whether the supporters of this resolution assumed that Coll would not support this poorly considered RFP.

I wrote to Moran, Sanghvi, and Golub:

Can you shed some light on why Accounts, Finance, and Public Works are seeking their own legal representation through a recent RFP?

None of the three responded.

This is potentially disastrous. The city would have dueling attorneys at an unknown cost and generating an even more acrimonious Council.From The City Charter

From The City Charter

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According to our city charter, the city’s Mayor has the authority to hire the City Attorney. In fact, based on history, the Mayor also has the authority to fire the City Attorney

The charter empowers the City Attorney to act as the city’s “general legal adviser.” The code allows the Council to “provide additional legal service,” but this has always been for hiring attorneys with specialized skills, such as negotiating contracts with our unions. In my memory, it has never been used to usurp the responsibilities of the City Attorney.

Some History And Some Perspective

The Mayor’s right to choose the City Attorney has, in my opinion, been abused in the past. Despite the goal in the code that the City Attorney is counsel to the city, there have been attorneys who appeared to act more as the Mayor’s attorney rather than the city’s.

Still, in the decades I have observed our city’s deliberations, no one has ever suggested that individual Council members should have their own legal representative beyond the support provided by the City Attorney.

David Harper, the current City Attorney, and I could not be further apart on the political spectrum. Having said that, Mr. Harper is a person of the highest integrity. I am confident that when asked to address a legal issue, he follows the law wherever it may take him. He is an excellent lawyer, and this city is very fortunate that he serves us.

Similarly, Mayor John Safford and I could not be further apart on the political spectrum. Still, the issues that separate us have nothing to do with the considerations for successfully managing our city. I don’t think you can find a person fairer and more open than John Safford.

Let’s Hope Cooler Heads Prevail

I cannot emphasize enough how potentially disastrous this RFP is. Commissioner Moran unfairly denounced Harper’s opinion in the on-call debacle in the most intemperate terms, attacking Harper personally. More recently, he opposed paying the fees for a past elected official’s legal costs. Again, he was grossly incorrect on the law, as documented in the carefully crafted legal opinion of Harper and Izzo.

Arming Moran, Sanghvi, and Golub with their own attorneys to fight opinions they do not like would not end well.

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