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Salida should practice what it preaches

Letter from F. R. Pamp

Shop at Home – January 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

Dear Ed:

As a self-employed person who is trying to earn a living in Chaffee County, I read with interest your “Letter From the Editors, Where We Shop,” in the December issue. I was moved to comment by a recent event which could be filed under the general heading of “Do as I say, not as I do.”

When Al Sulzenfuss stepped down as legal counsel to the City of Salida recently, I expected the city either to advertise for a replacement or to contact the Heart of the Rockies Bar Association to solicit applications for the job. Instead, and without any notice that I heard, Salida hired a law firm from Denver. I expect that firm specializes in municipal law, which I do not, but why didn’t the city even bother to find out if any local lawyer was competent in the field?

Then there is the question of cost. The practice of law is very different than the building of widgets, of course, and I know nothing of the financial arrangements with this law firm, but I do know that the going hourly rate for lawyers in Salida is much lower than in Denver, and there was nothing resembling a competitive bidding process. Any competent lawyer can become a semi-expert in a given area of law within a few weeks, if s/he is serious about it. There is no magic in municipal law that makes a Denver firm automatically better than someone who pays local property taxes. I am particularly interested in travel time. I can walk from my office on G Street to City Hall in — oh, about 9 minutes, if I stop to chat with someone in front of Amícas, but it takes me 2-1/2 hours to drive to downtown Denver. That gives any local lawyer a substantial financial edge over Denver competition — but the City Council did not see fit to find out if Salida was getting the best help it could obtain for its legal expenditures.

What I see as a clear failing by the City of Salida to look for local people is not limited to this position. The municipal court judge (who might be a very good one — I have never met him/her) lives in Crested Butte. With Denver supplying the city counsel, the top two of the three legal positions paid for by Salida are held by people who live, shop, and pay taxes outside of Chaffee County.

I try to shop locally, but if anyone from Salida city government ever says anything to me about the issue, I will say: Hmpf.

F. R. Pamp