In-house city attorney // Eliot Singer

I’m going to write a couple of posts regarding the firing of Yeadon and resignations, from a historical perspective.

First, I want to review the financial argument for an in-house city attorney (city employee). When we did the petition drive, the primary motive was to get rid of the law firm that had had the contract for a long time, because of the many reasons that law firm had failed the public interest.

But we did also make the case that an in-house attorney would save money. This needs to be reviewed, just as we disputed the Meadows-Staton claim that contracting out saved money, based on obsolete data (pre-internet).

A city attorney does various tasks. Looking at East Lansing attorney billing records and comparing with cities with in-house city attorneys, it looked like East Lansing could make do with 1.5 FTE, plus legal assistant, excluding work for development authorities. Possibly this could be 1 FTE, if law students were hired to plea bargain MIPs, which was much of the time spent working with court. And, in fact, much of the work changing zoning and related ordinances had to do with development.

There should be no reason for development authorities to continue regular meetings, so no reason to pay an attorney to attend (or staff). As I’ve said many times, development authorities are functionally obsolete and should have no further role except cleaning up past mistakes.

The other advantage of an in-house attorney is there could be many candidates. The excuse for continuing with the McGinnty-Yeadon law firm was it was the only firm locally with government experience. There are many city attorneys in Michigan (or assistant attorneys) who might apply for the job (and an .5 FTE assistant could be someone only wishing to work part-time).

-Eliot Singer

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