September 30, 2013 Updated: October 4, 2013 at 7:51 am
In 2010, the voters of Colorado Springs overwhelmingly approved a change in the City Charter. That vote brought a Council-Mayor form of government to our city and separated our governance into two branches: executive (Mayor) and legislative (City Council.) The change brought a system of checks and balances - a system which has served us very well at the state and national level.
With change comes opportunity. City Council is committed to providing transparent governance and has a responsibility to explore options to achieve the best solution for citizens. The ability to contract independent legal counsel is an opportunity for City Council to more effectively accomplish our responsibilities.
The authority of City Council to hire outside legal assistance is found in Section 13-90 (b) of the Colorado Springs City Charter: "The Council may also, at any time, employ other counsel, to take charge of any litigation or to assist the Attorney."
The City Attorney is part of the executive branch according to the City Charter. However, the City Attorney is also required to provide counsel to City Council, Colorado Springs Utilities and other boards and commissions.
When one compares the legal counsel we receive from the City Attorney's Office to that of the General Assembly where I served for 12 years, there's room for improvement, especially when it comes to the overall customer service council receives. At the General Assembly, the State Legislature has in-house and external lawyers. This option allowed us to develop and delivery legislation that was fast and focused on solving our state's most pressing needs.
While the City Attorney's Office has many very good lawyers, there are specific times for specific expertise. For example, when the city sold Memorial Hospital, City Council contracted an independent law firm to assist the City Attorney's Office with the transaction. And, this representation has been very beneficial to helping council solve all the complicated issues involved in the sale.
Stormwater is another example that calls for expertise. In researching governing and taxing structures for a storm water solution, it became apparent that to understand the various possible approaches, seeking outside counsel would be the best solution. This is a necessary expense to fully comply with all the legal requirements of complicated state and federal law.
I am confident City Council can find the right balance with our city attorney to do the research necessary to produce the best possible storm water legislation for our citizens.
As we continue to evolve into this new structure of government, we will continue to strive for the best relationship possible with the mayor and the city attorney for all the citizens of Colorado Springs.
Keith King is Colorado Springs City Council President. Contact King at: firstname.lastname@example.org.