COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

County Attorney’s Office Position Request

 

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Approval of Paralegal position

 

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Tucker, Foley, Davis

 

 

LEGAL REVIEW:   Yes

 

AGENDA DATE:

January 3, 2006

 

ACTION:     X                       INFORMATION:   

 

CONSENT AGENDA:

  ACTION:                             INFORMATION:   

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:      Yes

 

 

REVIEWED BY: 

 


 

 BACKGROUND: 

The County Attorney’s Office is staffed by four attorneys and two support positions.  The last new attorney position was approved in 1997 and the last new support position was approved in 1995.  Since 1997 the County has undertaken significant new initiatives that have greatly increased the work load of the Office.  Some of these initiatives include the in-house production and maintenance of the County Code by the County Attorney’s Office, the civil prosecution of zoning violations,  the creation of the ACE Program, the adoption of the Neighborhood Model, land use policies that necessitate the extensive use of proffers, significant land use code revisions and updates, the requirement that all drainage easements and storm water facilities be dedicated to the County, capital projects to address the urban infrastructure priorities that necessitate the acquisition of property and easements and contract review and management, and a revised process for executive summaries to identify issues and  improve quality control. These initiatives are in addition to the increased work load attributed to the growth of the County and the work load of other County departments which generate the need for legal services. 

 

Significant growing demands for legal assistance are being generated by the Board of Supervisors, the School Board, the County Executive’s Office, Human Resources, Social Services, the Department of Fire Rescue, the Finance Department, the ECC, Community Development and General Services. The County Attorney’s Office represents the County and the BZA in a growing number of land use cases being litigated which is to be expected as the County urbanizes and changes land use policies.  In addition, the new VACO Insurance Program encourages the County to handle all nuisance law suits seeking monetary damages in-house to avoid the cost of the $10,000 deductible. The number of zoning violations requiring legal action has increased from less than 20 in 1999 to more than 120 in 2006.  These cases are time intensive from filing the civil process through obtaining, collecting, and releasing judgments.  A growing number of cases require enforcement by injunction in the circuit court.  E-Government has increased the volume of public interaction through the County website and other communication initiatives and in general there is greater interaction with the public by the County Attorney’s Office dealing with issues being addressed by the Board of Supervisors and School Board and to respond to FOIA requests.

 

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

·         Value of Stewardship - We honor our role as stewards of the public trust by managing our natural, human and financial resources respectfully and responsibly; and

·         Support the Board of Supervisors, the County Executive’s Office and all other County Departments in their efforts to support the County’s Mission and to realize the County’s Strategic Plan goals. 

 

 

DISCUSSION:

The current workload in the County Attorney’s Office has been managed by asking the attorneys and staff to produce more work in less time.  Since 2001, there has been no turnover in the staff and the County has benefited from retaining an experienced legal team.  However, the growing demand for legal services necessitates a request for additional personnel.  The review of the Community Development Work Plan and the demands it places on legal services have highlighted the need for greater assistance to meet the timelines of that work plan.  Although the County Attorney’s Office intended to time its request for additional personnel to be considered in the FY08 budget and concurrent with the 2007 renovations of the

County Office Building to create additional office space, a request to advance the hiring of a paralegal position is now deemed necessary.  It is anticipated that if this request is approved the position could be filled as soon as March of 2007.

 

A paralegal position is a cost-effective option to reduce the workload of attorneys by delegating tasks that can be managed by a skilled paralegal.  A paralegal can reduce the attorney work load in the civil penalties zoning enforcement process, the review of easements and agreements for Community Development, the handling of real estate transactions, the processing of ACE and PRFA conservation easements, updating forms and documents, by assisting Community Development in verifying the legal sufficiency of signatures for applications and bonds, by managing the in-house County Code, and by assisting in processing employee grievances and FOIA requests.  In addition, this position will relieve stress on existing support staff (a Legal Services Assistant and an Office Associate IV) that is being asked to assist in these tasks that are outside their expected scope of responsibilities. This request will be followed by a request for an additional assistant county attorney position in the FY08 budget proposed to be hired in January of 2008 concurrent with the planned availability of office space.

 

Staff has reviewed other alternatives and finds in-house legal services to be the most efficient, cost-effective and practical approach.  An example is the in-house County Code that has saved the County approximately $15,000 to $ 20,000 annually and provides a higher level of service (immediate supplements and on-line updates).  Specialized knowledge and the significant cost of private attorneys make the use of private counsel difficult or cost prohibitive.  The most prudent use of County resources would be to hire a paralegal to create more available attorney time to support the County’s strategic objectives.

 

 

BUDGET IMPACT:

If a paralegal position is approved, it is anticipated that the position could be filled in March of 2007 for a FY07 cost of less than $22,000.  Salary and benefits for one third of a year are projected to be approximately $16,000 with additional operating costs of approximately $400.  One time costs for the position are projected to be approximately $5,500. Recurring annual costs in FY 08 would be approximately $50,000.

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Staff recommends that the Board approve the County Attorney’s Office Paralegal position request.

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:

A – Paralegal Position Job Description

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