Council OKs pact for overflow legal work

I'm a journalist focused on government, policy, politics and people.
I find what matters and bird dog it like nobody's business.

town_tupelo_greenBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Tupelo City Council quietly and unanimously approved Tuesday a contract for the city’s overflow legal work, a contrast to heated discussion five months ago related to hiring an in-house attorney.

Tupelo law firm Mitchell McNutt & Sams continue handling any legal work beyond what city attorney Ben Logan cannot, which hasn’t been much since he began in October.

For at least 40 years, Tupelo government contracted with a law firm for legal work. MM&S contracted with the city for most of that time. Mayor Jason Shelton insisted during September discussions for the 2014 fiscal year that the council create an in-house attorney position, saying it would save taxpayers $100,000 annually and make legal services more accessible.

City records show MM&S billing during a 10-year period cost the city $277,328, or $23,110 monthly.

Logan receives $90,000 annually in pay plus benefits and shares an assistant with the city’s chief operations officer.

Comparing monthly costs of general legal work paid to the law firm with costs of in-house attorney work since Logan began shows a savings of nearly $40,000.

“I firmly believe that this trend will continue, and that the city will save between $120,000 and $135,000 in FY 2013-2014,” Logan wrote in a memo to council members.

Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan, the lone vote opposing the in-house legal counsel position last fall, said Tuesday that he hasn’t reviewed savings resulting from use of an in-house attorney and remains skeptical. He still complimented Logan’s legal output.

“He works very hard and is on top of things,” Bryan said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com