Commissioners Debate Adding Law Department

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January 30, 2006
Commissioner Marion Williams is also pushing for the city to follow the city charter by establishing an in-house law department. News 12 is on your side to explain why Williams and other commissioners say paying one city attorney is costing taxpayers too much money.

$125 an hour, that’s what Augusta City Attorney Stephen Shepard is paid.

“It’s been costing a lot of money, the way we’ve been going,” Williams said.

It has cost taxpayers nearly $1 million in years past. That’s why some commissioners say it’s time for a change.

“But it really isn’t about the attorney, it’s about the fact that the charter calls for an in house law department,” Betty Beard said.

When the city consolidated ten years ago, the charter called for an in house law department, meaning the county attorney had to work solely for the government and be paid a salary, but that law has never been followed.

“Somewhere along the way it fell through, but I hope we’re going to move forward now because the charter calls for it,” Beard said.

“Somebody dropped the ball and I plan to find out today where the ball was dropped,” Williams said.

Monday, in committees, commissioners tried to figure out how to get on the right track.

After debate, an agreement was reached that a headhunter will be hired to advertise for the law department positions with commissioners having the final say on who’s hired. All agree that it’s a step in the right direction that will save money in the process.

“And I do feel that it’s time that we do staff the law department. Not saying that we don’t need outside help from time to time, but we could find in house counsel that could serve the basic needs of the county,” said Joe Bowles.