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Office of County Counsel

BACKGROUND

County Counsel The Grand Jury conducted a routine review of the Amador County Counsel. The County Counsel was interviewed on February 17, 1999. An audit and review were made of the Department's expenditure transactions.

The County Counsel is the chief legal advisor on civil matters to all County officers, agencies, and departments. The County Counsel may represent the County, its officers and employees, in the defense and prosecution of all civil litigation, except personal injury, other large damage actions, and worker's compensation cases. The County Counsel serves as the legal advisor to the Superior and Justice Courts, the Amador County Unified School District, Local Agency Formation Commission, Amador Regional Transit System, Amador Regional Sanitation Authority, and all special districts for which the Board of Supervisors is the governing body. The County Counsel's office drafts and/or reviews for legal sufficiency all contracts, leases, ordinances, and resolutions before adoption by the Board of Supervisors.

The County Counsel's Office consists of three attorneys and one secretary. One deputy county attorney has responsibility for litigation in some environmental issues and personnel disputes. The second deputy works with dependency cases, public conservator office, property work and collection of County debts. The County Counsel handles all major cases and large environmental cases.

Law suits against the County, its employees and the Board of Supervisors that require lengthy litigation and jury trials primarily in the area of personnel and discrimination cases where specialist knowledge is required, are handled by outside law firms. The County Counsel determines which cases require the hiring of legal firms and which firms are retained. The County maintains a self-insurance fund, which covers expenses and settlements to $100,000 per suit. Expenses above this figure are covered by liability insurance.

FINDINGS

  1. Expenditures incurred during fiscal year 1997-1998 involving personal injury, large damage actions and workers compensation not handled by the County Counsel amounted to $448,010.
  2. During the first 10 months of fiscal year 1998-1999, the amount expended on outside litigation was $164,631.
  3. With the County's enforcement of a zero tolerance policy in harassment, costs of litigating such cases have declined significantly.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Continue training for Board Members, Supervisors and Department Heads in Equal Employment Opportunity, harassment, and proper form of disciplinary action to lessen the number of lawsuits brought against the County.
  2. Analyze all cases brought against the County to determine which departments need additional training.

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