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BREAKING NEWS

County board should shop around for better lawyer deal

In this time of bean counting and penny pinching, we think it’s a fiscally wise decision for the Marquette County Board to consider other options when it comes to its legal counsel.

Attorney Steven Pence has held the position for some time now, and this editorial is not a slight against him by any means. Rather, we see this as a smart move by the commissioners, and as a step toward carefully managing our taxpayer dollars and remaining open to finding ways that leave our pocketbooks untouched.

Pence, by all reports, has done well dealing with the county’s legal work, and being inserted into the position after spending some time as a board member means he was keenly aware of the issues the county faced.

However, there have been some remarks as to Pence’s appointment to the position, which was a decision made by the very same board members he served with. Some say it’s a “sweetheart deal,” hinting at favoritism among the commissioners.

We at the Journal are sensitive to those viewpoints and understand that perception sometimes means a whole lot more than what’s actually happening. With that in mind, it may not be imprudent for the commissioners to look at taking the board’s support staff in a new direction.

However, on the other hand, Pence has seemed to complete the tasks set before him just fine, and we aren’t aware of any complaints from commissioners or administrators at the county.

Board Chairman Gerry Corkin said something we agree with for the most part: “If you have somebody doing a good job, you don’t go out for lower bids unless you think they’re not doing a good job,” Corkin said in a recent Journal article.

Unfortunately, in the public sector, taxpayer dollars are at issue here, and Pence’s contract, though split between Pence and his legal secretary, is still a considerable amount of money.

If he were rehired for 2018, Pence agreed to stay at the same compensation level as this year, which was a salary of $145,000, with subsequent increases of $2,500 each year for 2019 and 2020.

Though part of that money goes to pay for an assistant to help Pence with some of the workload, the total salary is only for “part-time” legal counsel, meaning what we believe to be something less than the traditional 40-hour work week many of us are accustomed to.

This isn’t an attempt to undermine Pence or the office he’s occupied for nearly three years now. The county’s civil counsel position should in no way be viewed as anything but a critical resource for decision-makers, and commissioners have praised Pence for his diligence and being available and professional at all times.

It’s well known that attorneys are among the higher paid professions, but seeing whether there are any more affordable options available to the county isn’t a bad approach to this situation.

Aside from some potentially hurt feelings, the decision to seek other proposals should have few negative consequences. It could very well end up that Pence’s proposal is the most reasonable and prudent one for the county to take. In that case, the taxpayers, and members of the board, should be pleased with the result, considering Pence’s well-built reputation. But whether it’s insurance, a new car or a new lawyer, it never hurts to shop around to find the best deal.In this time of bean counting and penny pinching, we think it’s a fiscally wise decision for the Marquette County Board to consider other options when it comes to its legal counsel.

Attorney Steven Pence has held the position for some time now, and this editorial is not a slight against him by any means. Rather, we see this as a smart move by the commissioners, and as a step toward carefully managing our taxpayer dollars and remaining open to finding ways that leave our pocketbooks untouched.

Pence, by all reports, has done well dealing with the county’s legal work, and being inserted into the position after spending some time as a board member means he was keenly aware of the issues the county faced.

However, there have been some remarks as to Pence’s appointment to the position, which was a decision made by the very same board members he served with. Some say it’s a “sweetheart deal,” hinting at favoritism among the commissioners.

We at the Journal are sensitive to those viewpoints and understand that perception sometimes means a whole lot more than what’s actually happening. With that in mind, it may not be imprudent for the commissioners to look at taking the board’s support staff in a new direction.

However, on the other hand, Pence has seemed to complete the tasks set before him just fine, and we aren’t aware of any complaints from commissioners or administrators at the county.

Board Chairman Gerry Corkin said something we agree with for the most part: “If you have somebody doing a good job, you don’t go out for lower bids unless you think they’re not doing a good job,” Corkin said in a recent Journal article.

Unfortunately, in the public sector, taxpayer dollars are at issue here, and Pence’s contract, though split between Pence and his legal secretary, is still a considerable amount of money.

If he were rehired for 2018, Pence agreed to stay at the same compensation level as this year, which was a salary of $145,000, with subsequent increases of $2,500 each year for 2019 and 2020.

Though part of that money goes to pay for an assistant to help Pence with some of the workload, the total salary is only for “part-time” legal counsel, meaning what we believe to be something less than the traditional 40-hour work week many of us are accustomed to.

This isn’t an attempt to undermine Pence or the office he’s occupied for nearly three years now. The county’s civil counsel position should in no way be viewed as anything but a critical resource for decision-makers, and commissioners have praised Pence for his diligence and being available and professional at all times.

It’s well known that attorneys are among the higher paid professions, but seeing whether there are any more affordable options available to the county isn’t a bad approach to this situation.

Aside from some potentially hurt feelings, the decision to seek other proposals should have few negative consequences. It could very well end up that Pence’s proposal is the most reasonable and prudent one for the county to take. In that case, the taxpayers, and members of the board, should be pleased with the result, considering Pence’s well-built reputation. But whether it’s insurance, a new car or a new lawyer, it never hurts to shop around to find the best deal.

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