I called up Councilor Feeney's office last week to get some clarification about the hiring of the ex-judge at $500 an hour to look into Councilor Turner. A $50,000 price tag has been bandied about in the press, but Feeney's spokesperson said that it wasn't correct. In fact, the City still hadn't signed a contract with the guy.
Now call me crazy, but usually you don't announce to the press that you have signed some one up to do a job, until you actually have signed someone up to do a job. That kind of gives the other party all the bargaining leverage. If the City tries to negotiate hard on an issue, the judge could threaten to walk and then how would that make the City Council look? But, then the City and the City Council seem to have buckets of money at their disposal for these fleece quests, so who cares? Lord knows we don't have to tighten our belts in these tough times.
The breakdown was explained to me as follows: $500 an hour for the judge, $90 an hour for his investigator, but apparently the bulk of the work is going to get done by unpaid interns. That's great, the City Council is going to decide whether to oust an elected official who hasn't been found guilty of any crime (yet), based upon the work of unpaid interns. That sounds like a fair and democratic process. Unpaid interns (from California?) are going to determine whether Chuck Turner is qualified or unqualified to serve. The report is due in February! No signed contract yet and the report is due in two months?
I asked about the comparisons to Richard Jefferson the Congressman from Louisiana who has been serving in Congress for almost 3 years since his indictment, including winning an election. Councilor Feeney's office spokesperson told me that "The City Council has different ethical standards than Congress". I asked does that mean 'higher' standards than Congress, to which the reply was in the negative, not 'higher' just different.
Finally, I asked whether the other councilors voted to hire this guy and was told that no, Councilor Feeney and the Corporate Counsel decided she had the authority to do it on her own. That sounds a bit iffy to me that the City Council President could hire someone with out any parameters of cost without authorization from anyone. If it is true, it is a dangerous precedent to set. What if she wanted to hire her friends consulting firm for $100,000 to look into Turner does that need to be authorized by anyone? The lack of checks and balances at City Hall is incredible. The spokesman said the contract isn't for $50,000, and from his statements it seemed like it could be more, it could be less, it could be anything.
I've asked for a copy of the contract once it becomes finalized.