Covering the lawyer’s bill would be a gift of public funds

Editor,

I would like to have an opportunity to respond to the recent news story and editorial regarding a billing issue between the City and South Whidbey Record over City of Langley Attorney Use titled “Mayor puts price on freedom of the press” and “Yeah, we are not paying.”

1. The City does not have an attorney on staff. In fact the city only has 14 employees. They do indeed use an attorney, when needed. There is an approval process to go through prior to utilizing the services. The attorney charges $320 an hour (almost as much as the entire staff combined) and with such a small budget, this is a resource used sparingly.

2. The city did hire the attorney to work on legal opinion regarding the Sanctuary City issue. The City Attorney was invited to the 1/17 City Council Meeting to share that opinion with the Council and the Public – a meeting the reporter attended.

3. No other opinions have been requested from the Attorney regarding the Sanctuary City issue other than to review and advise on the Resolutions that have been drafted by the City Council. And, just recently to provide Sample Ordinance Language.

4. On 2/9 the reporter from the record used the attorneys time asking a series of questions about Sanctuary City. Some were answered, some were not. The attorney, as they are wont to do, billed for this time.

5. The city treasurer, received an invoice for the time the attorney spent with the reporter, and knowing it was not pre-approved, questioned it. As is her fiscal job to do. To not collect the charges would be an illegal gift of public funds. She has been working in the city for 24 years, and said in all this time, the city has never been invoiced by an attorney for work hired by an outside company – newspaper or not.

6. The reporting of the Record was incorrect in that I did talk to the Reporter directly about the charge and ask that he and his Editor call me back. He indicated that his Editor was gone for the day, but that they would get back to me.

7. The attorney invoice was forwarded on to the newspaper, as they are the ones that requested the work. The newspaper was not formally invoiced by the city to talk to an employee as the paper indicated.

8. Prior to writing the article, the paper did not contact the treasurer to ask about the charge, did not contact me about the charge, but did however, ask people that were unaware of the circumstances and reported on their lack of knowledge and surprise of it. Again, not explaining to them what the circumstances were.

9. We have never billed or attempted to bill for discussions with a tax-payer funded employee. Our Attorney is a specialist subcontractor to the City.

I am still waiting for a phone call from you to see if we can resolve this matter agreeably.

I hope this helps clear things up for the readers of the South Whidbey Record.

Respectfully,

TIM CALLISON

Mayor of Langley

Editor’s note: Mike Kenyon is a contract worker but he is Langley’s formal city attorney with a legal budget of $50,000. The reporter asked one question; the attorney replied with a one sentence email denying the request. Saturday’s story contained no errors. The newspaper did not request any work and it did receive a formal bill with the words, “Please remit the cost of $64 to the city.” All sources contacted for Saturday’s story were explained the circumstances, that the city attorney is a contract employee, that he billed the city for time spent with the reporter, and that the bill was then forwarded to the paper with a request for payment by the mayor.

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