May 12, 2009

Two city lawyers resign

Two city lawyers -- Dale Clift, the city attorney, and Jeff Steeg, an assistant city attorney -- turned in letters of resignation today because, they said, they could not afford the part-time positions unless the city began offering them health care.
Both resignations are effective June 1.
City Councilor Mike Rimcoski said he understands the decision made by the pair and isn't sure what will happen.
"I just don't like being forced into a corner," Rimcoski said.
Rimcoski said that he wants to talk with the rest of the council about the issue "and see if there's anything we can do."
The city attorney's office has two full-time lawyers, Richard Lacey and Ann Baldwin, and three part-time posts, including the city attorney's slot. But one of those posts has been empty for months because they council has refused to consider Mayor Art Ward's choice for it, Edward Krawiecki, Jr, a former city attorney.
If Clift and Steeg step down, all three part-time lawyer jobs would be vacant, leaving only the two full-timers.
Rimcoski said that if Clift and Steeg depart, Ward might wind up having to pay outside lawyers -- at a cost that could easily exceed the cost of health care coverage -- in order to ensure Bristol's legal work gets done.
"Two people can't handle it all," Rimcoski said.
Rimcoski said he anticipates the discussion about how to handle the situation may take place in executive session. It may be too late to add one to tonight's meeting, he said.
Ward could not be reached for comment.
In Clift's resignation letter, the city attorney said the workload "exceeds what I can provide. The modest compensation, without benefits, and the time these duties take away from my private law practice have presented a financial dilemma that I must resolve, regretfully, by leaving."
Clift has been city attorney for more than a year. Before that, he served more than a dozen years as an assistant city attorney.
Steeg, who works with Clift in private practice, has been an assistant city attorney for nine years.
His resignation letter states that he has to give up his position with "a heavy heart" because of "the lack of health insurance benefits offered by the city."
Steeg also pointed out in his letter that some other part-time city workers and even some non-city employees do get coverage.
"I have to work morefiles and generate more income from my private office in order to pay for the skyrocketing cost of health insurance," Steeg wrote.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Anonymous said...

What will it be Ed, Corp Counsel or Mayor?

Anonymous said...

Are these guys nuts or what? The Mayor's asking for concessions from everyone and these two want benefits . . . now? Bad timing, guys.

Anonymous said...

The wrong two resigned!

Anonymous said...

The mayor may be asking for concessions, but is not doing anything to cut the costs that he can!

And we will be paying for it!!!

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is that Ward is asking for more from that office, and has not, or been able to, filed the empty position.

They know what is happening and were tired of being used!

Anonymous said...

Not in my book. Good riddance.

bandits said...

looks like a plot to hold the city hostage, city better not give in to them.

Anonymous said...

Oh boo for your insurance like the rest of us!! Enough is enough. You don't like it, then there is the door. Everyone that works at City Hall thinks they are entitled to $100,000+ compensation...well you're wrong and you are replaceable-which is exactly what we will do. So long suckers.

Anonymous said...

Lawyers !!!! ..... Can't live with them .... can't shoot them .... What a conundrum .

Anonymous said...

Steeg and Clift . . . what a pair.
Go cry in someone else's beer.

Anonymous said...

Don't give them benefits....Never cry for a Lawyer.

Bristol cannot afford Family coverage for both these people.

Anonymous said...

There goes Ward's 5% pay cut if they give em raises.

who figured? said...

this should do a lot to improve the image of their law firm - free negative advertising.

Anonymous said...

Buh bye boys!

Anonymous said...

at 33K per year, clift is seriously underpaid. to begin with, i don't care what they say but this is not a part time position. he's got to be putting in more than 35 hours per week (many of those are evening hours at meetings where his presence is mandatory). add to that the fact that he and his colleagues in the city attorney's office are short one attorney, so he's doing more work than he signed on for.

continuing to put this in perspective... in private practice at the reasonable hourly rate of $250 per hour, clift could generate $33K of revenue in only 132 hours, or about 3 working weeks. assume that he's putting in 20 hours per week for the city at 50 weeks per year (this is underestimating) for 1000 hours per year... he's basically making about $33 per hour as a city attorney. honestly, its probably less than that because i'm sure he's putting in way more than 1000 hours per year.

and... because there are only so many hours in a day, he's probably devoting 40% of his work day to city issues, and scrambling to get some good billable hours in with the rest. this means that he can't generate revenue from his private practice because he's too busy with public work.

so, in short, he's making $33K per year only to lose ... probably hundreds of thousands of dollars that he could be making in private practice. conservatively. even in this economy.

clift is a smart guy. he has experience. he knows what he is doing. he is an asset to the city.

my concern is that usually, you get what you pay for. clift has proven that, with him, the city gets much more than it paid for (a tremendous bargain). if the city loses clift, which private attorney will be willing to do the job if they're going to take a +85% pay cut from their private practice? people with ulterior motives or bad lawyers who can't get work legitimately.

i don't know why clift has put in 10+ years with the city for little financial gain (and likely, financial loss). marketing? power? good company? if those are his ulterior motives, i can live with that. after all, he's practically volunteering his services to the town.

unfortunately, he can't continue to do so while paying the high costs of insurance that he needs to keep himself and his family safe and healthy.

give the guy some freaking health benefits. its a small investment for the city with a huge return.

AND... call your local political representatives and the governor and tell them to vote for sustinet, which will allow small businesses like clift's to buy into the public health care plan and make quality health care affordable for him and his family.

let's also remember that, while he's a lawyer, he's also a small business owner who has to do the best he can for his family in these difficult times. in this regard, he's no different than the owners of your local salon, landscaping company, or favorite pizza place (try empire pizza in forestville.. yum).

have a little compassion. underneath their shiny suits and tie tacks, lawyers are people, too. ;)

Anonymous said...

10:19 AM - you hit the nail on the head. Although a part-time position, when the City has a legal issue or gets sued, part-time or not, the lawyers do not get to say "sorry, we already put in our 20 hours this week." They must show up. And, in fact, they must do more than show up. They must do the research, review the documents and prepare the defense. Unlike large law firms, the City does not provide them with associates, paralegals or cutting edge research tools. At $33k per year, the City is reaping ten fold what it is paying for. This is a tremendous loss for the City. Many municipalities hire large law firms to be their corporate counsel at rates of $200-$300 per hour. The cost of health insurance is a drop in the bucket compared to what it will take to replace these two. And I challenge the Mayor to find two part time attorneys clamoring for the position at this pay rate without benefits.

Anonymous said...

Not only do I agree with 10:19 a.m., I'll go one further, and say that Dale Clift is more than "practically volunteering his services to the town". It is more like he is paying the town to do the job.

Anonymous said...

While it stil wouldn't total his billable rate, keep in mind that all of the attorneys expenses are covered by the city: staff, supplies, office, insurance etc.

Also. his city salary is guaranteed, while his billable hours aren't.

Lets tell the whole story.

And nothing has changed since he took the job, has it?

Anonymous said...

to 10:48, you are absolutely correct.

let's also remind the citizens of the cost of outside counsel who are brought in to represent bristol on specialized matters, such as construction, environmental, and labor law issues and matters beyond the capacity of the city attorney's office. if you understaff corporate counsel, you have to make up for that by hiring more outside counsel when things heat up because the understaffed city attorney's office can't handle the workload.

outside counsel won't take $33 per hour and all the peanuts they can eat, or whatever the mayor thinks is appropriate.

and, in reply to 11:56 a.m.:

as it should, the city bears certain of the city attorney's overhead expenses only to the extent that the city attorney is on city work. Clift has to pay his private practice's overhead expenses individually - as is totally appropriate. I'm not sure whether you were implying that Clift uses city staff, supplies, or office space for his private practice (no evidence of that), or that the city pays for the malpractice insurance on Clift's private practice (we know it doesn't). Don't know what you're trying to get at here, but I do know that he's hardly making out like a bandit.
I think that's the end of the story.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Steeg is the man

Anonymous said...

to 2:02 p.m.,
well said, mr. steeg

Anonymous said...


What I was pointing out is that whatever rate/dollars Clift is getting from the city, it is clear (before taxes) and money in his pocket as opposed to paying for the expenses of his private firm out of his billable hours from his private practice.

kemo sabe said...

let them both hang in the wind, they tried to play cowboy and indian without enough ammo - scalp the bastards.