Bill William Arganda Blog:
In a legal setting the term insanity usually relates to that of an argued mental status of an accused person. However, in government- public service, it defines an abusive financial culture of public funds.
How many times have we heard municipalities, counties, state and federal agencies battling a law suit, settling a legal matter or paying a hefty judgment? It’s a common theme, and one that’s arguably considered a necessary evil in government, the so called price of doing business.
Certainly there will be lawsuits, and often a public entity is forced to defend, which translates into costs…taxpaying dollars towards legal fees. Public records and annual budget reports clearly show the ever increasing cost of legal fees due to lawsuits. However, what is lacking in these public disclosures is a breakdown of how and why these legal costs are generated. How much of our public funds go towards UNNECESSARY legal costs?
Lawsuits are usually the result of defending employee action. In any other legal setting the client has full authority to dictate what legal steps are needed and pursued. Clearly if a private citizen has limited legal funds, they are going to direct their attorney accordingly. However, if it is someone with unlimited resources, they are going to order up every legal trick of the trade possible, no matter the cost. It’s the client’s money, they can do what they want with it. But whose really the client when it’s a public entity paying the legal bill?
How much is the public told about legal costs as it relates to legal decisions made that affect public funds? Let’s hope it’s not left to the attorneys to determine if they should work more billable hours on a case or not…if it’s not them, then what official legal expert(s) makes those determinations, and how are they justifying those decisions ? Worse, do they even have to justify every legal discretion or not? Let’s hope it’s not the very same public official whose department is the origin of the suit. Perhaps it’s an HR manager or Risk Manager whose department has full authority to approve not only the legal bills, but also the law firms assigned.
In most cases, certain officials with the decision making are provided full authority up to a certain large amount without oversight….why? one would (and should) ask? To avoid constant delay and bureaucracy that inevitably slows the process. Makes sense if documented in procedure or resolution properly, but very dangerous and susceptible to abuse of public funds. One person, or department, can have full rein with a blank check over a matter they may be intimately involved in or clearly lack enough knowledge in to properly proceed.
How accurate, intentional and legal will such a person truly be in protecting legal costs if it’s not even their money? When you are “gambling” with other people’s money (the public), how inclined will they be to do the most ethical, fair and cost effective thing? How careful are you with other people’s money when you have a vested interest to prove you and your actions right?
We are all human, and never is it so prevalent with public sector errors…however, the biggest error is ignoring the inevitable human errors in this flawed system that costs the clients (the public) unnecessarily.