The Pekin City Council again addressed the city’s legal counsel Monday. After a request by Councilman Tim Golden in March to hold a discussion, an in-house counsel analysis was completed by the city. No action was taken pertaining to the city’s legal services Monday, however.
Golden, who wrote his own corrections to the city code referring to corporation counsel, said the city should look to bring the services in-house for financial and procedural reasons.
According to the analysis, in fiscal year 2015-16, legal expenses for the city were about $213,000, but were budgeted for $280,000. For FY 2016-2017, $285,000 was requested by the outside legal firm, Elliff, Dancey & Bosich, P.C.
Golden referenced and compared Galesburg’s in-house corporation counsel as a basis for the city to base a decision off of.
“The city over there is very, very pleased with their in-house legal department,” Golden said of Galesburg, which has one city attorney.
According to Galesburg’s 2016 proposed budget, the cost for its legal services was requested at $174,215. In the 2015 budget, the services cost $159,285.
Another city along Interstate 74 that was referenced and compared to was Danville. In the analysis provided by the city of Pekin, Danville’s cost for in-house services was $454,148. However, Interim City Manager Sarah Newcomb said Danville officials told her the department is currently backlogged with work.
“Their in-house attorneys are not currently able to keep up with the amount of code enforcement violations that they have right now,” Newcomb said of the city, which is taking an aggressive approach its code enforcement.
Councilman Mark Luft also voiced concerns with how the city’s current legal services have conducted business.
“This isn’t just about an individual, this is about restructuring a situation ... this is about the taxpayers money, not a handshake,” Luft said. “... But setting policy, I think we do have the ability to restructure a department or a position that best serves the council and the taxpayers and staff.”
Because of the city’s current costs, Councilman John Abel said it wasn’t nearly as expensive as when City Attorney Burt Dancey first started.
“I remember when Burt came into the picture. We were paying $1 million to a local firm, so you think $275,000 is a lot of money, it is,” Abel said. “But in the scheme of things 20 years ago, we were paying an awful lot of money for corporate counsel.”
Due to the city’s lack of a full-time city manager, some council members suggested the city wait until one is hired to make a decision, if any, on the city’s corporation counsel.
Dancey said the firm has been conducting its legal services that it is contracted out for and is available to the city “24/7.” The firm’s location, he said, was also a factor benefiting the city for legal purposes. “We’re 45 seconds away, hardly no further than going upstairs,” he said.
The City Council Monday also approved the contract with the Pekin Housing Authority for the rehab coordinator position by a 6-1 vote. The contract, which has been voted on annually for the past 11 years, came with a 3 percent increase to the salary. Funding for the position came from the Community Development Block Grant.