Penny wise guys
Last week, the City of Marion published a legal notice making it illegal to park in the same place on city streets for more than seven consecutive days.
Instead of printing the ordinance as required by state law and city code in the official city newspaper, it used a legal loophole to print only a summary, referring citizens — or, at least, those with internet access and an inclination to go searching — to the city’s website for details.
It did this supposedly to save money. But did it? It saved the city a whopping $14.95 to publish only the summary, but the city first had to pay an out-of-town attorney to draft and certify the summary.
Exactly what the attorney charged isn’t yet known. In September, he and others in his firm rendered advice to the city 45 times — more than twice every working day — for a total of $1,995. That’s an average of $44.33 per consultation. The smallest individual fee was $15 — a nickel more than what supposedly was saved.
So, to prevent $14.95 from going to a local business, the city spent at least $15 — probably more — with an out-of-town lawyer. And that doesn’t count the large sums it sends to an out-of-town firm to run its website.
Worse yet, the money may have been wasted. State law requires that summaries be certified by the city attorney. This one wasn’t. It instead was certified by a junior associate and signed by the associate as if he were the actual city attorney, even though state statutes and city code don’t allow for whole firms to be designated as city attorneys and the lawyer involved never has been appointed city attorney and never took an oath of office required of city attorneys.
Why deprive citizens who don’t have internet access, threaten the validity of an ordinance, and spend at least a nickel more to prevent spending $14.95 with a local business unless the goal is to somehow punish that business for doing its job and reporting whenever the city does something questionable?
— ERIC MEYER