A request from Kathy Parrott, commission attorney, created some chatter among commissioners during Monday’s budget and finance committee meeting.
Parrott said when she began representing the commission in 2007 she agreed to a flat fee of $32,000 per year to handle legal matters involving the commission.
But due to an increase in litigation her workload has gone beyond the 20 hours per month she anticipated in the original contract.
“We are no longer in a position to work on a flat fee,” Parrott told commissioners.
Citing several active cases and the possibility of depositions in three cases in the coming month, Parrott asked commissioners to consider her request to be additionally compensated for any work performed that exceeds 20 hours per month.
To be sure additional funds are available Parrott asked the commission to budget $82,000 for her legal services. This is a $48,000 increase in the monies currently available for Parrott.
While several commissioners commended Parrott for her good work in representing the commission, questions swirled about the need for her services in addition to those of Joe Coker, county attorney.
“Why do we need two attorneys?” Commissioner Ann Smith asked.
In response to Smith’s question, Parrott said while she and Coker conferred on a number of cases, the greater part of their work was performed separately.
Commissioner David Goins also took issue with the manner of the request.
“I want a nailed down price. I don’t want a floating budget out there,” Goins said explaining he did not like the fact that Parrott may or may not spend up to $82,000 if the commission voted to fulfill her request.
Although no decision was made on the matter during Monday’s meeting, commissioners will be forced to take action soon as Parrott’s current contract is slated to expire on June 30.
Issues such as Parrott’s budget request may present more challenges than usual for the upcoming budget cycle.
Faced with bleak economic projections commissioners voted to pass a resolution allowing the county to continue operating under its current budget for additional 92 days.
In a previous meeting Jeff Marlow, county finance director, advised the body a prolonged budgetary process would be needed in order for it to have an accurate forecast of future growth that the budget will be based on. As a result the property assessor’s office will need more time to bring the assessed property values up to date.
While the resolution passed with ease, Commissioner Johnny Joe Dower voiced his opposition to the matter.
“I don’t like this. I’d like to see us get something passed before school starts,” Dower said, suggesting that failing to have a budget in place may delay the start of school.
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