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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Editorial on the Municipal Death Penalty Case and Thoughts on OPM

This Tri-City Herald editorial makes the point that the lawyer advising the City of Mesa, which is considering bankruptcy because it can't pay the judgment imposed on it in a Public Records Act case, should take some of the blame.

The editorial points out that perhaps the lawyer's hardline approach was dictated by the client, the city.

But whether it was the lawyer or the city (or both), the fact is that when government is confronted with a choice of (1) following the law when it doesn't want to (by turning over embarassing documents) or (2) paying a bunch of money, it comes down to three letters: OPM. As in "Other People's Money." Why would a government agency follow the law when it can fight those pesky citizens endlessly with ... OPM. And then, if the citizens gets lucky and wins in court, pay a judgment with ... OPM.

It only seems to matter when there isn't enough OPM to save the town from bankruptcy. Then it's a "crisis."

Here's a previous post on all the reasons government--and their lawyers--have to roll the dice and not follow the law in open-government matters.