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More for less

GENE JALESKI
Contributing Writer
jaleski@lbknews.com

I periodically revisit the question of full time town attorney or part time town attorney. I have always found that the taxpayers would save money and likely receive better service, having a very well qualified, full time town attorney, as opposed to the long standing arrangement with David Perssons’ legal firm for part time legal services.

According to town records, Longboat Key spends around $550,000 annually for part time legal services.

When I think about the current policy of retaining part time legal services, I am reminded of the 18th century play “The Servant of Two Masters”.  I understand the impracticality of a part time attorney appearing at all the various commission and board meetings, fully ready to participate in the proceedings. This requires considerable preparation and the billing law firm’s need to be mindful of  billable hours. There is also the issue of case load and client demands that are inescapable when a lawyer has multiple clients.

I believe Longboat Key taxpayers would be better served by a full time town attorney for a few reasons. Especially when such service can be obtained at half the cost of a part time attorney. At the end of this article I will list the various national web sites I used to gather the specifics of this discussion.

Town Lawyer: Longboat Key use to have a top 25% hiring policy. I hope they still do. After all Longboat is a premier community. People want town services that are professional and high quality. So I looked up the national average pay scale for city attorneys. A lawyer in the top 20% of his profession earns around $130,000.

 

Paralegal Assistant: Again I consulted the web to ascertain the national average pay scale for a paralegal in the top 20%. The average salary is $60,000.

Offices: I looked at Longboat Key commercial real estate listings for appropriate and conveniently situated office space to house a town attorney and paralegal assistant. I found good office space directly across from town hall at 540 Bay Isles Rd. The office is 4800 square feet and leases for $9,600 a year. I am fairly sure the lease price could be negotiated for a long term arrangement.

Incidentals: Office furniture, computer and copy equipment may cost as much a $20,000 a year, but I doubt it. Supplies another $10,000.

So we have a projected annual expense of $229,600 for an upper tier experienced town attorney, a top notch paralegal, spacious offices and incidentals. All for 40.3% of the cost we presently pay a part time attorney.

I have talked to one or two ex-commissioners who would have liked to have had unfettered access to good legal advice when they were serving on the town commission. I think I remember reading something in the newspaper about the town rationing legal services to the commission as a way of controlling legal costs.

There is no doubt in my mind that the taxpayers would benefit from having a full time dedicated town attorney, who might also serve as a skilled liaison between the town and various county and state agencies and legislative bodies. I believe we have needed such a presence for decades.

Attorney Saleries:

http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=City_Attorney/Salary

Paralegal Saleries:

http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Paralegal/Salary

Office space listing:

https://www.officespace.com/longboat-key-fl/building/72813-540-bay-isles-road

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