Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Cost of Debating the Cost of a Lawyer

I'm a consultant, so, much like a lawyer, my time is billed hourly. I'm also responsible for planning, administering and pricing many of the projects I work on. So just for shits and giggles lets think about how much lawyergate is costing the tax payer. First the people involved:
  • Each city councilperson makes $55,029 per year, if we estimate that a full time equivalent (FTE) is 2080 hours (that is an accepted business metric) then they are worth approximately $26.46 per hour.
  • Each councilperson also has a staff that they can pay up to $82,000 per year, which for simplicities sake, we will treat as 2 FT Es at $19.71 per hour.
  • The city solicitor makes $92,285 (according to the 2004 budget, it's all I could find) or $44.37 per hour.
  • The associate solicitor (who did most of the work in developing the infamous opinion in this case) makes $74,160 or $35.65 per hour.

Now a swag at the effort to get us to this point:

  • This debate has been a constant part of the regular city council meeting. Let's say they have discussed, on average, for one hour of each meeting since the May 7th meeting where they initially voted. So there were 8 tuesdays since then, all 9 councilpersons involved comes to $1905.12
  • Figure that for each meeting the 4 effected councilpersons prepared with their staff members for an average of 4 hours. This would imply that they have only spent 32 hours each working this since it came up, likely a gross underestimate. That comes to $8428.80.
  • Then we'll say that the other councilpersons spent an average of 1 hour with staff preparing for each meeting, meaning they have spent 8 hours working on this while it has been an issue. That's about $2635.20
  • However, this isn't only the councilpersons' issue. What about the solicitor? He at least read and understood and in his own words took responsibility for the original opinion that was 13 pages long, attended a city council meeting, prepared for said meeting and today has published a revised report. Let's call that a total of maybe 15 hours? I think that's pretty conservative, but I don't want to sound unreasonable here. 15 hours of his time is worth 665.55.
  • In addition there was the person who crafted the original 13 page opinion Ms. Kate DeSimone (one of 2 associate city solicitors). It was crafted in just a few days, but lets assume those were long ones since there are quite a few words in that opinion. Let's say she spent 30 hours on the opinion and any follow-up. That would be about $1069.50.
  • Now with any project there is overhead. In this case we're talking about the time and efforts of the council clerk, the mayor, the other assistant solicitor, the legal department's Legal Secretary and Paralegal as well as the cost of supplying simple things like the paper to print the opinion on and the office space to have the meetings. This would also include the primary contributors time spent doing administrative tasks related to this project such as the solicitor driving over to the council meeting, talking to the council members on the phone, writing them letters, etc... Typically a projects overhead is 10% to 15%. Let's use 10%, that's $1,470.42.

Drum Role Please..... The total is $16,174.59! That's a conservative guess of the number of taxpayer dollars we have spent SO FAR to decide whether or not to spend $10,706.00 of taxpayer dollars. That doesn't even attempt to capture the opportunity cost of having a governing body that is supposed to pass bills to ADVANCE our region distracted for a couple months.

Webster defines bureaucracy as "a system of administration marked by officialism, red tape and proliferation."

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