Contracted legal duties saves millions

Outsourcing of legal representation to outside law firm has resulted in savings, but critics remain.

May 30, 2011|By Joseph Serna,

COSTA MESA - The city has saved millions of dollars since contracting out its city attorney duties to the Jones and Mayer law firm in the 2004-05 fiscal year, data released by city shows.

In the five years since Jones and Mayer was hired, Costa Mesa has paid about $4.7 million for legal representation. In the five years before, the city paid more than $7.5 million for its own in-house attorney, records show.

The annual savings averaged about $550,000 though costs fluctuated year to year by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The data provided by the city did not include any legal settlements or judgments.

City officials said the city plans to post recent legal settlement costs on the city's website eventually, with settlements from past years coming last.


The city released the data amid a furious political debate over the City Council's decision to outsource many city services, arguing it could save the city money in the long term.

The city's pension costs are projected to rise over the next five years, though increased employee contributions have tempered the increase.

Critics argue outsourcing doesn't guarantee savings for Costa Mesa, and say studies in years past have shown some services are more cost-effective when kept in-house.

Costa Mesa plans to send out a series of Request for Proposals in the next few weeks to contract out a bulk of its jobs, including telecommunications, street sweeping and code enforcement.

Proposals are due back in summer. By September, workers will know if they will still have a job or not.

Some employees aren't waiting to find out. Workers in telecommunications and maintenance, among other departments, have left or are looking to leave, employees said.

Though not part of the outsourcing plan, the police department is facing its own cut backs and some officers are job hunting, officers say privately.

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