Thursday, April 20, 2006

Legal (Dept) Mumbo Jumbo

Ok, so the council changed their mind and voted to take control of the legal department from Craig Malin. Firstly, as I didn't go to the meeting, who changed their vote? Tom Saul doesn't mention that in his brief article about it.

My second thing, is how is this going to change anything? Now instead of having conflicts of interest with Craig Malin, won't they just have them with the council? If the city council is your boss, and a majority of them would like a legal opinion to go a certain way, isn't that a conflict of interest?

It seems like we took away one possibly iffy situation, when Legal helps set up a contract for their own boss, with a million iffy situations, where legal is asked for their opinion on various ideas that their new bosses have. I guess some Aldermen will do anything they can to get tiny increments of power away from Malin. Seems like they should have better things to do.

Also, I thought this council was morally opposed to motions to reconsider? Why didn't Brooke and company have a walkout to stop them from having a quorum? Oh yeah, professionalism.


Anonymous said...

The issue of who should supervise Davenport’s legal department will get another vote after Alderman Keith Meyer, 3rd Ward, raised questions Monday about the suitability of City Administrator Craig Malin continuing to handle the task.

A majority of the City Council sitting as the Committee of the Whole voted to reconsider an April 5 vote where a move to place the department under the supervision of aldermen failed. Because Meyer voted against the move at the time, council rules allow him to ask for another vote if a majority agrees.

The city’s current dispute with Kevin Krause of the Swing of the Quad-Cities over a $415,241 debt the team owes for renovation of John O’Donnell Stadium found its way into the debate.

Meyer questioned whether Malin’s desire to be involved in the 2003 project and his love of baseball resulted in the best agreement the city could have gotten and if it could have been more air-tight if the city legal department had reviewed it without Malin’s supervision. Malin, who has opposed the change of supervision, assured alderman that the city got the best deal it could.

“If you look at the negotiations, I don’t believe my love of the game put the city in harm’s way,” Malin said of the 2002 agreement signed with the Swing. “I challenge anyone to find a lease that requires anyone to pay the likes of which Kevin Krause has to pay.”

Under questioning from Meyer, Corporation Counsel Mary Thee said most of the legal opinions sought by alderman are given directly to them and only rarely does she let Malin see one before it is distributed. She considers the council to be her client, even though she is supervised by Malin.

The legal department’s job is to offer opinions and advice based on the law and facts, and not to allow values or judgments to enter into its work, said Alderman Charlie Brooke, 6th Ward, who opposes the change. If the council supervises the department, there could be instances when Thee may be caught in the middle of issues by a sharply divided council.

Brooke also voiced concerns about questions from Meyer in which he asked Thee how she thought her department should be supervised.

“It is not the job of the corporation council to opine on policy issues,” Brooke said.

QuadCityImages said...

Right, but which of the non-Meyer 5 voted for the change? The original was 6-4 against changing with Meyer voting no so he had the option of a motion to reconsider.

Apparently motions to reconsider are only allowed for the Meyer/Lynn/Hamerlinck group.

Anonymous said...

First of all, nobody from the group of five that I know of ever said they were "morally opposed to motions to reconsider". What they were opposed to was a special meeting which was set to ramrod a decision on a $15,000.00 option payment for the Freight House down their throats without knowing exactly what the $15,000.00 would be used for. (And, the public seems to agree. I would declare the Freight House public market project dead on arrival as of today.) But, I digress. This is a wonderful decision. You see, it is the legal department which drafts Malin's employment contract. Under questioning at Barney Barnhill's ward meeting a few months ago, Tom Warner of the legal department openly admitted that one of the reason that the City Administrator may have a lot going for him in his contract with the City is that the CA is his actual boss! And that is coming right from the horse's mouth. Although Malin may rarely "see" Thee's legal opinions before they are formerly presented to the Council (wink, wink), I guarantee that there is a lot of discussion going on about how those legal opinions should go.

Now, for the practical every day stuff. Ms. Thee will now submit legal opinions for Council review, and more pairs of eyes will see documents before the final drafts are signed. That is a good thing. If Professor Lynn had been privy to the Swing's new contract prior to signing, you can be damn sure it would have a late clause.
And, I will tell you right now, we never would have signed a contract for purchase of garbage trucks that said we could not back out without paying for the trucks. That is unheard of. Every contract I know of has penalties for breach, but those do not include socking the purchaser (in this case the taxpayers) for 100% of the cost if they should change their minds.

Colonel Davenport said...

I just want someone to ask this question:

Can City Administration provide the last twenty years of job performances for the Council Assistant position. This is the one employee position that has always been under the oversight of the council at large.

Would someone please tell us, Yes, annual job performance evaluations have been done these last 20 years?
Let's not pick on one specific council, lets look at the last ten or fifteen councils. Has the City Council ever demonstrated the ability to adequately manage or employ an individual.

I will bet anyone two plane tickets to Florida the answer is No. In fact, if I recall, ten years ago the then 1st ward alderman was screwing around with the last assisstent while he was still on the council.

So the Council will oversee Thee to bring trust back to city hall. That is code for, "We don't trust Malin". If that's the case, cut him loose. I suggest there is more at play here.

A wise course of action would be a Mayoral Veto and set this stupidity aside.

QuadCityImages said...

I just think its pure hypocrisy for the group of 5 to walk out on a perfectly legal motion to reconsider, and then have their own a month or 2 later. The non-walkouts from last time should have walked out this time so the others couldn't "ramrod" this legal department thing down THEIR throats. Who decides what things are ok to play games with and what aren't?

Anonymous said...


You left this part out;"a recommendation from a citizens committee that said the change would lead to better government and would bring Davenport in line with the way legal divisions in other large Iowa cities are supervised."

Hmmm... Other large Iowa cities have the legal departments supervised by their councils...why is it such a wacky idea QCI?????

Anonymous said...

Colnel, I would go one step further. It seems like the City Council doesn't like the our form of government very much. In our system, as you know, much of the day-to-day city government stuff is left to staff and the city administrator. If the council wants to manage day to day operations lets change our form of government to a commissioner style government. Lets give them what they want. Lynn can be Finance Commissioner, Barnhill Parks and Rec Commissioner, Meyer can be Public Safety Commissioner, and so on. I am sick of this bloviating council. I don't like how they scapegoat staff and projects (ie its the legal department's fault Kevin Krause isn't paying his bills - bs).

With no "real" responsibility there is no way to really get a taste for how they would actually run the city. Rather than supervising city legal, I would like the council to use the bully pullpit to get what they want from Krause. Of course, that would mean they actually have to do something to correct the situation.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 9:03 said
"If Professor Lynn had been privy to the Swing's new contract prior to signing, you can be damn sure it would have a late clause."

Wait a minute, wasn't Billy on the council when the lease was approved?? I don't remember him saying anything about a "late clause" before it was voted on.

Oh, the beauty of "Monday morning quarterbacking"!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12:08 pm, thank you for making my point, even though it appears you did not mean to do so. Because the legal department was under the control of Malin, the council did not get to read the fine print before the document was signed by staff. Now that legal is under control of the Council, we will have an additional 10 pairs of eyes looking at things prior to signing them. Maybe we will catch some bad stuff a little more often. How can that possibly be a bad thing? Maybe that is why there was
"a recommendation from a citizens committee that said the change would lead to better government and would bring Davenport in line with the way legal divisions in other large Iowa cities are supervised."

Trust me on this, if Lynn had gotten a chance to see this contract before it was signed, it would have had a late clause.

Finally, Tom Warner of the legal department even admited at a ward meeting that one of the reasons that the City Administrator may have gotten unfair advantages in his contract with the City is that the CA was his actual boss. I don't care what you say, QCI, you can't dispute the facts.

Anonymous said...

^^^ What he said.

Anonymous said...

How could the council approve the contract without reading it? Do you really believe Meyer would have approved something he didn't have the chance to read and tear apart paragraph by paragraph? I think someone here is telling little white lies about that situation.

Anonymous said...

"..the council did not get to read the fine print before the document was signed by staff.."

Now your trying to blow smoke up my butt!! Get real, the council had to approve the lease....they read it (like the post above this one said)!!!

Are you really Billy himself disguised anonymous??

Anonymous said...

Make that
Are you really Billy himself disguised AS anonymous??

Anonymous said...

Putting city legal under the authority of the council will just give the council cover for when they make a bad decision - blame the legal department. The buck stops with the council and if they are derelict they should own up to it. They shouldn't blame staff for their incompetence.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I wrote the above post at 1:07 pm, and I am NOT Bill Lynn. But, I am somebody that goes to almost every council meeting, and I have watched them closely. So, let me tell you, if you think the Council gets to read legal docs now, you are sadly mistaken. They just vote on concepts and staff "implements". Translation, the staff screws the taxpayers into the ground. So, having legal under the Council gives the staff an element of control, and guys like Keith will indeed get to read the fine print. I have said it before, and I will say it again. How can ten pairs of eyes pouring over a legal document be a bad thing?

Anonymous said...

School's almost out, spring is the perfect time to nudge Malin into gearing up a job search.

When has the City not had difficulty getting payments from a JOD tennant.

QuadCityImages said...

Yeah, but at least Kevin isn't sitting on the roof in a lawn chair in protest. I can't even remember what Holtzman was protesting..