Saturday, October 28, 2006

real world fiscal irresponsibility

As I went through this morning's News Journal, I came across three related stories. Not related by an article in the Journal, but related by a concept... fiscal irresponsibility:

State Police fail to track sex offenders. While Colonel Thomas Macleish was correct in his statement that "It's [his] responsibility", the root cause of the problem was the fiscal irresponsibility of the executive and legislative branches to fund a law they passed. While they are quick to respond to the fickle public's hue and cry to address an issue, they fail when it comes to the part about putting the money where their law is. It's all well and good to say that the State Police are to perform certain additional tasks, but the cold reality of it is that it means that we actually have to pay an employee to do it. The State government falls down on this reality check in many many places, every single day.

Public Defenders urged to draw the line. The Delaware Public Defenders and contract (conflict) attorneys have been advised that, from an ethics perspective they should refuse to accept cases when to accept the cases would overburden their case load and diminish their ability to provide adequate legal representation. I salute Monroe Freedman for this advice. Here again, the State government has been ducking and covering the real fiscal issues for as long as I can remember, and I am sure a lot longer than that. I have written several times about how appointed counsel for the patients at the Delaware Psychiatric Center are drastically under paid for the hours that it takes them to provide adequate legal representation. I'm not talking dream team here, I'm talking just the basics. I have personally seen these problems throughout our government. After many attempts to correct these problems from the inside, I came to the conclusion that for an attorney to continue to function under an under-funded situation that prevents him or her from providing adequate legal counsel to the clients, is to be an enabler for the fiscal irresponsibility in the government. And that, in and of itself is irresponsible and unethical.

We are still hearing reverberations from the fiscal irresponsibility of the Christina School District. And I deplore what they have done. But again, there is a fundamental root problem that is worse yet. Why is it that we have dozens upon dozens of school administrative positions, all paid well into the 6 figures (and with additional multi-thousand dollar automobile reimbursement contract benefits) when other states can do just as bad of a job with just one administrator (for a school population size comparable to Delaware). We are being irresponsible by allowing these administrative leeches to suck the life out of our childrens' education system. We don't need more than three school districts in this State... and that's stretching it. We could get away with only one district. But instead, we are paying many millions of dollars every year to fund dozens of duplicate administrative districts. And look at the ethics of the people who we are paying these millions of dollars to... today's News journal article is about the Newark High School principal and how he is a finalist for a job in Alabama. Didn't I read recently that he said he isn't going anywhere? That was when a story broke about him being considered for a Maryland job. Oh my! He must be such a leader in the educational field that schools across the country are beating down his door... without him applying. Does he think we are ignorant? I suppose from a school administrator's position we must be. We are ignorant to pay so much for so little.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Error on Newark Penalty Corrected... Oh Really?

My Opinion -

Today's News Journal Local section says that the error has been corrected. This refers to the huge jury award against the City of Newark this week in Federal Court.

It seems that the City was ordered to pay the aggrieved party's attorneys fees ($1.7 Million), and that in the math, the amount was counted twice. Well, that's understandable. I can understand it because the amount of the rest of the award was so large as to minimize the impact of the double counting of the attorney fees. It is good that it was promply corrected today.

I think we should look however at what was really the error. The bigger error. The one that is in the neighborhood of $36 Million Dollars. I think we should know what caused that error, and fix it.

And the multi-million dollar error that Newark made regarding the adjustment of power charges. Who's going to fix that? Do the people even know about it? I know that I would like to understand it better.

What I am crystal clear on however, is that the City's leadership by Mayor Vance Funk has been disappointing, arbitrary and capricious.

For example, the Mayor recommended that the way to deal with the growing Alderman Court caseload was to ignore the growth issue and recommend formally that the Alderman's salary be cut so as to provide for more compensation for the Deputy Alderman. The Mayor said... on the record... that there was nothing that the judge of Alderman's Court could tell him that he didn't already know. While it is true that Mayor Funk was Alderman thirty some years ago, it is also true that some things have changed since then. Further, the Mayor at that meeting spoke of the arrangement that had been made upon the hiring of the Alderman. Well guess what? He wasn't there. He wasn't Mayor then. He didn't know. He was imprinting upon the present day what he wanted to remember from thirty years ago.

But instead of acknowledging the changes and working with council and the judiciary towards the development of a plan to deal with the growth of the Court and the City, the Mayor preferred cheap political rhetoric.

Such has been the Mayor's practice since he has taken office. And his cavalier and demeaning comments of this nature have been generally demoralizing to the dedicated City employees. Myself included.

After hearing of the meeting regarding the Alderman's Court discussion, I immediately resigned from the position of Deputy Alderman in protest to the manner in which my dedicated professional colleague was treated.

The Alderman had appeared to discuss the matter in private with council, only to find that he had not been informed that the City had decided that the meeting must be in public. Since the planned private meeting was to discuss budgeting which included my personal compensation, I did not attend. Nor was I invited. Had I been invited, or even if the slightest of a suggestion have been made that either there would be a public meeting on the topic, or that I might be asked questions at a private meeting, I would surely have been there. I had already supplied the City with written documentation and supporting data with which to make its budgetary planning, and I had expressly invited the City to ask me any questions that the Mayor and Council might have. Indeed some written questions were forwarded to me and answered promptly.

The Mayor will want to point out that he wasn't in office when the original firing of the reservoir contractor took place. But he was Mayor during the litigation. I would like to know what happened during those years that spiraled the City into this disaster. If he dealt with that the same way he dealt with other things, then I do understand.

Correction is still needed. It's needed at the polls.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Understanding the Melson, Child Support Formula

Many people know about the Melson Formula, Delaware's presumptive child support calculation. But what most people don't know is that there is another document that explains it and helps with interpretive questions.

The Family Court of the State of Delaware Delaware Child Support Formula Evaluation and Update, most recently of October 2, 2006.

When I was practicing in Family Law, I found this document to be priceless. And as hard to find as gold nuggets.

The formula is adjusted, sometimes annually. And policy decisions are made as to how to apply the formula to different circumstances. Going into a child support hearing with only the formula, and without having this document, is going in to a boxing match with one hand tied behind your back.

So here it is, in its entirety,the best kept secret in Delaware child support law. This edition is effective January 1, 2007.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Blogs as Evidence and Impeachment Material

Not shocking, but noteworthy and food for thought... as reported by Kevin at Real Lawyers Have Blogs, Blogs are being used as impeachment material for witnesses in lawsuits.

Along with the ease of publication that Blogs offer, don't forget that they are publication. Might Blogs by their ease of operation allow someone to publish before the complete thought process has been performed? I think so. Might this be a danger in Blogs?

Maybe just a danger in people.

Rule of thumb... Think... then publish. It is also helpful to run a draft by an associate, first.