Change to in-house lawyer good decision

Tue, 07/17/2007 - 4:16pm
By: Letters to the ...

The Fayette County Board of Commissioners took a step in the right direction in seeking an alternative form of legal representation.

Commissioner Eric Maxwell had the unique opportunity to witness the unique transformation Peachtree City made in legal and judicial services. The changes we made produced first-rate results.

Our City Council had looked at the possibility of in-house council and concluded, under the leadership of Councilman Weed, not to pursue that avenue. However, we did pursue a search for a new city attorney who was trustworthy, knowledgeable and efficient.

Indeed, we heard the moans and groans from the city’s old political elitists who claimed we were making a tremendous mistake. Please remember these were also the same people who claimed the Development Authority’s past illegal actions had been on the up-and-up and that the taxpayers would not have to foot the bill for their mistakes.

Needless to say, we procured the services of our present city attorney who has displayed a great deal of legal proficiency at a significant savings to the taxpayers of Peachtree City.

My council colleagues and I also appointed Eric Maxwell (in his pre-county commission days) to be the new municipal court judge in Peachtree City. Maxwell was replacing a judge with a long tenure and a solid reputation on the bench.

The only problem we had with the previous judge was that his fees for service were reaching the astronomical range and we felt it was our fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers of the city to look for a suitable alternative.

Maxwell’s bid was significantly lower and he proved to have the competency required for the position on the bench.

I did not receive a single citizen complaint regarding then-Judge Maxwell while I was in office. The quality of the judicial process remained high and at a savings to the taxpayer. The current judge is Stephen Ott and he is doing an excellent job.

Even though we opted against proceeding with an in-house city attorney, we did choose to hire an in-house solicitor. City Solicitor Moran was an incredible find. She is extremely proficient and gives us very efficient full-time capacity where we once had an uneconomical and not-as-productive part-time slot.

As for former County Attorney Bill McNally, no one is indispensable. It was a good thing Commissioner Maxwell got to see our transformation in Peachtree City firsthand. Our legal and judicial operations improved and the world did not crumble when we made changes as other tried to get the public to believe.

Two criticisms of McNally were that it was very difficult to track his billings to the county government and he had an undue amount of power behind the scenes. It was not uncommon to hear people in the know saying, “Bill McNally is the most powerful figure in Fayette County government.”

Hopefully, the County Board of Commissioners will throw out the archaic system of the past and create a billing system for outside legal services, if ever needed, that the average citizen will be able to decipher.

My hat goes off to Commissioner Maxwell for his leadership on this vital issue.

Steve Brown

Peachtree City, Ga.

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