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New City Attorney, Same As The Old One

By Greg L | 17 September 2011 | Manassas Park, Manassas City | 6 Comments

When the City of Manassas solicited bids for legal services this year, rather than simply continue with the same rather underwhelming City Attorney year after year, a lot of city residents were expecting some positive changes.  They definitely got one in that Robert Bendall announced he was leaving.  As for getting better legal services at lower cost, that strangely didn’t materialize.

Manassas Patch reports that while the city switched law firms, they’re getting the same attorney at the same cost as before competitive bidding entered into the picture.

The city’s attorney-related fees will remain the same. According to a letter from VF&N to council members, the firm will charge the city $200 per hour for attorney fees and $75 per hour for paralegal services. There will be no fees for secretarial services.

According to the letter, VF&N will also keep the current monthly retainer of $905 to cover council meetings, which is consistent with the Smith and Davenport contract.

I can accept that sometimes competitive bidding doesn’t result in bids that are lower than your current costs.  That can happen when you’re dealing with commodities that have a well established market price, or when the services you’re contracting for already face enormous competition and the prices for those services are well publicized, for example.  When you’re looking for some specialty service like legal services though, the costs of which can vary wildly, to see bids come in exactly at the level of the current non-competitive contract is highly suspicious.

Really, there’s not some qualified attorney out there who will provide legal services for $150 an hour, or at least at the $175 an hour that Manassas Park is paying?  I don’t buy that for a moment.  Something in the solicitation and awards process the city used went terribly wrong here.

So Manassas ends up with the same City Attorney they had before, only he works for a different firm now.  That’s the same attorney who penned a letter to the News & Messenger about a year ago railing against Virginia’s Health Care Freedom Act that was embarrassingly long on leftist talking points but exceedingly slim on legal insight.

Your story, “With legislation, Marshall continues health care fight,” shows us a road that Virginia has been down before. With “massive resistance” to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, Virginia hoped to “interpose” itself between the federal government and the people to prevent racial integration of the public schools.

Del. Bob Marshall hopes to do the same thing with his futile, theatric bills to ban mandated health care. His efforts will fail for the same reason that massive resistance did—once the federal government requires something, the states are helpless to stop it. He and Attorney General Cuccinelli know this, or should know it, but they are engaged in inflammatory and deceptive tactics for their own political gain.



Mind you this guy was deemed qualified and hired by a City Council that supposedly has an overwhelming Republican majority.

The HCFA (HB 10, 2010) passed the Republican majority House of Delegates 80-17 and the Democrat majority Senate by 23-17.  The passage of that act has started a fascinating legal dispute between Virginia and the federal government that touches on all sorts of constitutional law and legal precedent and will certainly end up before the Supreme Court.  Nowhere in the legal discussion happening in the courts has the ridiculous notion been peddled that this is tantamount to “massive resistance,” but here’s the new/old City Attorney who can’t manage to raise one actual legal argument and instead reaches for the leftist dogma of Don McEachen and Jennifer McClellan who tried to argue that the legislation was “racist.”  That sure doesn’t tend to raise one’s expectations about how things are going to work in Manassas now, does it?

One thing I can congratulate Manassas City for is that the process here was far better than the process Manassas Park used to adopt a contract with their City Attorney, but then vaulting over the low bar that this process was not fraught with unlawful actions isn’t a very high standard to aspire to.  In that case, the Governing Board adopted their highly irregular five year contract with Dean Crowhurst in a vote conducted in closed session in violation of Virginia’s open government laws.  Why did they think that they didn’t have to follow the law when they did this?  Because the person they were “negotiating” with told them so.

Residents in these municipalities should be asking some rather pointed questions to their elected officials about all of this.

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  1. Mary said on 18 Sep 2011 at 6:44 pm:
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    @ Greg

    The Patch said the Council vote was 5-1, do you know what’s the story there?

  2. Greg L said on 18 Sep 2011 at 6:45 pm:
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    I think Marc Aveni could answer that question, and a lot more.

  3. Maureen said on 18 Sep 2011 at 11:07 pm:
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    Something doesn’t sit right with this. I don’t know if Vanderpool still represents the developers in the city but if he does I would think this would be a conflict if interest.

  4. Robert L. Duecaster said on 19 Sep 2011 at 3:03 pm:
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    The Council is at fault for trying to procure professional legal services like it hires janitors. The city attorney position should be a salaried position. If the workload does not warrant a full-time position with an adequate salary, the individual hired should be allowed to pursue a private practice that does not conflict with his/her municipal duties.

  5. Doug Brown said on 20 Sep 2011 at 9:12 am:
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    Robert L. Duecaster,

    You’re right, I’ve always thought the city attorney should be a staff position. I suspect one of the factors that works against it has always been a certain uneasiness among some in the city that the position might engage in some IG type activities in attempt to assert its own bureaucratic muscle.

  6. Anonymous said on 20 Sep 2011 at 10:33 am:
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    Well he sure doesn’t seem too bright having observed him with the City school “bored” over the years, makes me wonder who we will get for City Manager with this crew picking losers right and left

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