An open response to a Palm Beach Post request

As part of its ongoing coverage of the Digital Domain story, the Palm Beach Post has made numerous requests for information from the City of West Palm Beach. Its desire to follow up on this story is both appropriate and completely within its rights.

In addition to answering all questions during a recent news conference, the City also regularly provides other information, as it should and as it is required to do under the law.

The Palm Beach Post has now asked to know the exact fees being paid to the outside attorneys who specialize in the very specific kind of bankruptcy law that the City is currently dealing with as part of its effort to reclaim its land.

While we voluntarily provide that information here, the City did have a conversation with the Palm Beach Post on this matter.

During that conversation, we explained that on many occasions, outside lawyers agree to charge the city a substantially discounted government rate far below their normal rate. Many attorneys agree to do this because they recognize both the City’s budget constraints as well as an overall obligation for public service.

The City expressed its concern that by publishing the exact dollar amounts of any attorney who does work at those substantially discounted rates, it may discourage the willingness of attorneys to provide future important legal services to the City.

Any small business owner who has ever provided a large discount to one particular customer can relate. Would that business owner want all customers to know about a significant discount offered to just one?

According to Palm Beach Post reporter Andrew Abramson, the paper has taken the position that their opportunity to print the dollar amounts overrides the worry that by doing so it could do damage and negatively impact the willingness of attorneys to provide future important legal services to the City. Following the conversation, the Palm Beach Post renewed its request.

Out of respect for the City’s role as a representative of the people and in recognition of the City’s budget constraints, both firms currently doing work in this case on behalf of the City agreed to substantially reduce their regular hourly fees to $375/hour.

These firms continue to work on behalf of our citizens, and the City is grateful for their service. We are disappointed by the Palm Beach Post’s position on this issue.