Friday, November 03, 2006

City Attorney

The coffee shops, apparently, are abuzz this morning over the salary of the new City Attorney, Shawn Smith. Approval of his contract will be on the City Commission's agenda next Wednesday.

The headline at the Key West Citizen today is: City attorney pay would be highest in county. The details of the contract are here on the City web site. The resolution appears on the consent agenda but I imagine that it will be taken off so that discussion can occur.

My first reaction when I saw the contract on Wednesday was curiousity. The contract is the result of negotiation between Commissioner Bill Verge and Smith, as authorized when Smith got nearly unanimous first-choice from the Commissioners on October 24th. Verge was the only Commissioner who did not give Smith his first-choice selection; in fact he ranked him third.

I think that Bill Verge is a man of integrity. In my view, he tries always to do the right thing, has no particular agenda, and is beholden to no one. I think that's true and I pray that I'm right. Given that, it would still be helpful, I think, for Verge to report on the negotiations before the Commission votes to approve the contract, to give his reasons for the salary figure, and to answer questions raised by citizens who may want to ask them.

I'm convinced that Smith is the right choice. He may have fewer years of legal experience than the other two applicants, but he's a capable lawyer, with a sterling reputation for integrity himself, and the local knowledge that can only be gained from living here. What he's paid for the job should be in some reasonable proportion to similar jobs in similar places. The salary is a measure of the value that Commissioners place on his ability to give them the legal advice they need to do their jobs properly. If they are satisfied with the salary, and Smith is, then by all means that is his worth to them and to the City, and I have no problem with it. He's giving up his private practice of law to take on one of the most critical positions that exists in City goverment, one that will put greater demands on his personal life than did the private practice.

I, for one, wish him well.

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