The article you’re about to read is from our reporters doing their important work — investigating, researching, and writing their stories. We want to provide informative and inspirational stories that connect you to the people, issues and opportunities within our community. Journalism requires lots of resources. Today, our business model has been interrupted by the pandemic; the vast majority of our advertisers’ businesses have been impacted. That’s why the SC Times is now turning to you for financial support. Learn more about our new Insider’s program here. Thank you.

LAURA FERGUSON, San Clemente Councilmember

Why is BB&K still serving as the city’s contract city attorney? At the Dec. 21 council meeting, one resident of 50-plus years said they should not be, and also said they should not be sending harassing letters to a councilwoman. BB&K is the highest-cost city attorney as determined by a third-party legal analysis conducted last year.

On Dec. 21, the closed session agenda improperly included my attorney’s response letter to the city’s defamatory investigative report about me. The city attorney listed the letter as “Anticipated Litigation,” which was unfair, because there was no context, as the city did not include its documents that prompted this letter, nor did I threaten litigation.

This city manager-initiated investigative report was the first of its kind against a councilmember done at taxpayer expense ($25,000 contract). The city manager said an employee complained about an email from me. I was exonerated, as the investigator concluded that I did not engage in any actionable bullying, harassment or hostile work environment, so why the need for a 70-plus-page report?

I’ve had to secure my own lawyers to defend myself from the council’s vendettas, while they use taxpayer dollars on attorneys to defend themselves. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent to censure me, while tens of thousands were paid to BB&K as the city sought insurance coverage for the personal defamation lawsuit against Councilmember James.

I filed a public-records lawsuit against the city, because BB&K (which also bills the city $5,000 monthly for public-records work when other cities do this work in-house) withheld documents from me. There’s something wrong when the city attorney gets to defend its own bad behavior and then bills the city for it. Why is San Clemente leadership continuing this wasteful cycle? Why is BB&K still our city attorney? It’s time we seek in-house legal counsel to reduce our up-to-$2-million annual legal costs and free up this money for programs and services that benefit the people.

Trustworthy, accurate and reliable local news stories are more important now than ever. Support our newsroom by making a contribution and becoming a subscribing member today.

About The Author Staff