Editorial l Assistance to a certified notary | Editorials
THE PROBLEM: The county is looking for a bankruptcy lawyer to protect itself.
OUR OPINION: A good idea, but keep your hands near your wallet.
The County Commissioners Citrus Council has approved a request from County Attorney Denise Lyn to hire a lawyer to help her with bankruptcy issues with DAB Construction and Nature Coast EMS. We hardly need to dig into the black holes of the US construction debacle and the EMS disaster dollar drain funnel.
But even then the county must try to recover from these fiascos. It’s no secret that Citrus County isn’t rolling in wealth. The BOCC is held accountable and closely watched by citizens and the press.
Ms Lyn’s request capped the amount she said she needed to employ this specialized mercenary. It’s $ 8,000. Looking at the contract submitted to her by the bankruptcy law firm she chose, their going rate is $ 300 an hour for government work. A review of hourly rates nationwide shows Florida’s average rate for government work is around $ 294 an hour, so Ms. Lyn’s pick is in the stadium. Not bad for banging him in the trenches.
But speaking of combat, we think this money is protection well spent to keep Citrus County – and its taxpayers – sleeping peacefully at night. We have no idea what future litigation is on the horizon in Citrus County, but this Pinellas County firm looks like a good fit as bankruptcy firms focus on one of two issues: protecting debtors or recover the money owed to creditors. The chosen one – Blanchard Law in Largo – seems perched on the protection of debtors. It would be Citrus County.
One might ask why do we hire a lawyer when we already have one who earns an annual salary? This is a reasonable question. With a reasonable analogy. A person goes to their GP for routine care, but when a health crisis strikes, the best action is to see that specialist – cardiologist, neurosurgeon, oncologist or whatever. A sick heart, brain, or cancer are just things to talk about with your GP. When your life is on the line, it’s time to bring in the big guns.
In her memorandum to the board, Lyn said so, saying there is an urgent payment and title issues with the county taking over EMS services. This was widely discussed by Commissioners and staff at the October 9 committee meeting, with Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach wondering why we have to go to another county to hire a bankruptcy lawyer. She wondered how many specialist firms in Citrus County focus on this branch of the law. Ms Lyn couldn’t provide an exact figure, but regardless of that, the county has positioned itself with a defensive wall in terms of litigation. And the $ 8,000 is already counted as a budget line in the annual budget for outside counsel assistance, representing only 10% of the $ 80,000 available. We encourage the remaining $ 72,000 to be returned to the general fund at the end of this fiscal year. And like an auction, “Go once, go twice,” the hammer ends at $ 8,000.
And not a dime more.