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SD City & County Could Share Legal Services

Audio

Aired 5/4/09

The San Diego City Council will vote today on whether to enter into an agreement with the County to share some legal services. The City Attorney says the deal could save millions of dollars.

— The San Diego City Council will vote today on whether to enter into an agreement with the County to share some legal services. The City Attorney says the deal could save millions of dollars. KPBS reporter Katie Orr has details.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith says working with the County Counsel’s office on some civil legal issues could be a big money saver for the city. He says in cases where either office has a conflict of interest or needs special expertise, it could use the other for representation instead of contracting with a private law firm.

"From our perspective in the city of San Diego, we’ve been spending tens of millions of dollars on outside counsel. It is a real costly problem to the taxpayers. One of the things I committed to do before taking office was to work on this problem, and we’ve done that," he says.

Goldsmith says he created a similar relationship with the District Attorney’s office for criminal cases when he first took office. He did not need the City Council’s approval for that agreement. But San Diego’s City Charter says he does need council approval for a partnership involving civil issues. Council President Ben Hueso says he supports the idea. But he says the city has to be careful.

"We can put ourselves in a situation where we are providing legal counsel to the county and they’re not providing us legal counsel and that would be a net minus," he says.

But Goldsmith says the partnership would be based on hours worked and would remain in balance. The County Board of Supervisors has already voted to approve the deal.

Katie Orr, KPBS News

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