Legal Department Study Conclusions

(This study was conducted by Dave Churchman.  Great, thorough job!)

The Legal Department at Puyallup City Hall has long been a target of concerned resident taxpayers with their string of unwarranted litigation, lost cases and large settlements. So the big question is “is it just Puyallup, or is it this bad elsewhere?  

An independent study has recently concluded evaluating Puyallup’s Legal Department with its opposite number in Olympia (as a sanity check).  A similar study was done last year comparing Olympia’s new city hall complex with Puyallup’s with regard to size, cost and number of on-site employees. It confirmed our worst fears as taxpayers. 

Olympia’s population is 25% larger than Puyallup’s but is similar enough to conduct a reasonable and fair analysis.  The staff at the City of Olympia provided an exemplary and timely response at various levels of detail to assist this study.   

  • The size of each city’s Legal Department is identical (around 9 heads, not counting court staff which are different departments in both cities).
  • Their base budget for salaries and benefits are similar also.
  • However, in 2010, Puyallup expended twice as much ($332K) as Olympia in the outsourcing of Legal Services using companies such as Foster-Pepper.
  • In 2011, Puyallup’s outsourced services are projected and budgeted at closer to five times as much (almost $420K) as Olympia has planned.
  • This does not include the millions of dollars in settlements levied against Puyallup by the courts. (Over $2M in the East Main landfill case alone).  

One aspect is very consistent when describing Puyallup’s outsourced legal help, their performance. Their success rate can easily be expressed in round numbers, very round!  

So the answer to the big question is, “yes, Puyallup is truly the land of generous people, very generous”  

Citizens only recourse to this fiasco is at the ballot box. Why?, only Council Member John Knutsen balked at the continued expense of higher taxes and fees to cover legal expenses that citizens are now stuck with paying.  

Remember that fact as Nicole Martineau who rubber-stamped the fee hikes is the only other incumbent running for re-election this year.  As Martineau is now campaigning for the “At Large” position, voters city-wide can express their gratification for her less than stellar representation in either a Primary or later at the General Election.

2011 Adopted Budget – Legal

Filed under Finances

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