OAKLAND, CA – A report released today by the City Attorney’s Office shows a significant reduction in the City’s legal costs as payouts, settlements and bills for outside attorneys plummeted in Fiscal Year 2011-2012.
The Mid-Year Annual Report shows the cost of payouts for claims and lawsuits, which include settlements and judgments against the City, fell by more than 50% in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2012. Records show the decline of more than $6.7 million – a 53% drop from the previous fiscal year – is unprecedented in modern City history.
The cost of outside counsel also fell sharply – by 40% – in FY 2011-12.
Costs for both payouts and outside counsel had been on a steep upward trend in recent years, and costs in both areas reached an all-time high in the prior fiscal year (FY 2010-11).
“Reversing these trends is a good start, but we have more work to do,” Parker said. “Part of the City Attorney’s job is to be a watchdog for taxpayer resources, and that includes resources in our own Office. I believe Oakland needs to focus all available resources on critical priorities like public safety, filling potholes, fixing infrastructure and staffing libraries. I am committed to cutting our legal bills as much as possible while still providing the absolute best legal services to the residents, businesses and taxpayers of Oakland.”
The Mid-Year Annual Report can be found at: https://www.oaklandcityattorney.org/
Like other major cities, Oakland routinely hires outside attorneys every year to handle legal work. The amount of money Oakland spends on outside counsel has gone up in recent years mainly due to significant cuts to the City Attorney’s in-house staff. In the last nine years, the City Attorney’s Office lost more than a third of its staff (19 attorneys and 14 support staff). At the same time, the demand for legal services has only increased, meaning the City has been forced to contract out legal services and hire outside attorneys for work that would have been much cheaper to do in-house.
“When I took office in July 2011, I made it a priority to reduce outside counsel costs by carefully managing every outside counsel contract, by restructuring the Office to use our in-house resources more strategically, and by creating a Request for Qualifications protocol for outside counsel to make the hiring process more competitive and more transparent,” Parker said.
The total bill for the most recent fiscal year (FY 2011-12) was $3.86 million – a drop of about 40% from the previous year.
Payouts for claims and lawsuits fell from a high of $12.8 million in FY 2010-11 to $6.05 million in FY 2011-12. Payouts spiked in FY 2010-11 mainly due to settlements in about ten high liability cases involving police matters – use of force, wrongful death, police vehicle accidents and police labor complaints. Payouts in police cases were dramatically lower this year – from $7.65 million in FY 2010-11 to $2.89 million in the most recent fiscal year. Notably, payouts also fell across the board in all other categories – personnel/labor, municipal infrastructure, city vehicle accidents and general government/miscellaneous.
Payouts vary from year to year depending on many factors, including the types of claims and lawsuits that are filed against the City. The City Attorney’s Office provides legal advice and analysis of all cases to the City Council – the City Council approves all settlements exceeding $5,000.
The City Attorney’s full Annual Report, due later this year, will include a detailed review and analysis of litigation trends, financial results and special initiatives undertaken by the City Attorney’s Office in FY 2011-12. All previous Annual Reports can be found at: https://www.oaklandcityattorney.org/Ops-Reps/AnnualReport.html