Establishment The Office of the City Attorney was established pursuant to the Article IV, Sections 5-33 through 5-39 of the Camden Code.The Office is headed by a City Attorney who is directly responsible to the Mayor. The City Attorney serves as the legal advisor to the Mayor, Council, and to all departments. He/she is responsible for the prosecution and defense of actions and proceedings by and against the City. He/she appoints a First Assistant City Attorney and Assistant City Attorneys as may be required to execute the functions of the Office. He/she may also appoint special counsel to assist in the preparation, trial or argument of legal matters or proceedings where necessary or in the event of the disqualification of the City Attorney.The Office of Risk Management exists as a subdivision of the Office of the City Attorney. Its function is to advise of the existence of casualty risks which could result in the institution of legal actions and claims against the City, act as an adjunct to the operation of the self-insurance program, and investigate facts and circumstances to determine the scope and amount of damages caused or suffered by the City. Lastly, it is to advise the Business Administrator and the Insurance Commission in the purchase of insurance coverage.The Office of City Attorney shall also act as counsel to the Affirmative Action Review Council and advise on matters involving affirmative action and employment of City residents. Pursuant to this function, a Field Representative/Contract Compliance Officer coordinates affirmative action compliance in City construction contracts.STAFFINGThe Office of the City Attorney consists of a twenty-five member staff
- Attorneys – ten
- Risk Manager – one
- Field Representative/Contract Compliance Officer – one
- Legal Assistant – one
- Paralegal – one
- Other Support Staff – eleven
- City Council
- Document Preparation
- Risk Management
- Affirmative Action Compliance
- Municipal Prosecution
- Purchasing Review Committee
- Maintenance of Records
Maintenance of Records
1. Counseling Function: The City Attorney and his/her staff serve as liaisons to the various City departments. As such, they provide legal counsel where required, attend meetings, and aid in the prevention of liability against the City caused by the actions of its employees. An in-house legal staff is advantageous as it provides continuity and convenience of service.
2. Litigation Function. The major categories of litigation are as follows:
(a) Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation.
The City has been self-insured for personal injury since 1989 and workers’ compensation since 1971. Prior to that time, the defense of these actions was provided by counsel provided by the insurance carrier and paid for through the insurance premium. The in-house handling of these cases has resulted in a reduction in settlements and liability insurance premiums. As the City Attorney’s staff conducts all interviews and depositions in City Hall, lost work hours attributable to travel time are also substantially reduced.
(b) Employee Disciplinary.
With the exception of police disciplinary actions (for which the staff attorneys are prohibited by ethics rules to defend), all employee disciplinary actions are handled in-house, allowing for accessibility and reduction in travel time and lost work hours.
(c) Defense of Employee Claims.
The majority of employment litigation cases is handled in-house. They cover a wide range of issues, including the removal of employees from civil service lists for medical, physical, psychological and residency reasons, sexual harassment, civil rights claims, whistle-blower actions, and wrongful termination claims.
(d) Tax Appeal.
With the exception of complex matters, tax appeals are handled in-house.
(e) Tax Foreclosures.
In-house efforts focus on the foreclosure of properties that require prioritization or expedited handling. Due to the time consuming nature of this process, some tax liens eligible for foreclosure are handled by outside counsel.
(f) Collections and Bankruptcies.
The applicable departments prepare bills and the supporting documentation, bill the debtors, and refer the debts of the non-responsive debtors for legal action. Bankruptcy actions, which usually involve a debtor’s effort to stay property tax collection or tax-foreclosure, are handled in-house.
(g) Municipal Court Prosecution.
Prosecutions are handled by private attorneys working under contract. Recent State Supreme court ethics opinions appear to require the prosecution of violators of municipal codes be conducted by an attorney other than the municipal attorney. Prosecution of traffic cases and disorderly persons complaints can be handled in-house or by contract.
(h) General Litigation.
The remaining types of litigation involve various issues including challenges to some municipal policy or action, bid contests, and contract actions. They are handled in-house. Due to the need for familiarity with the subject matter and sensitivity to policy considerations, in-house handling is desirable.
3. City Council:
The Office prepares and reviews resolutions and ordinances for each City Council agenda. It must closely coordinate with the other City departments and the Municipal Clerk. The Office also provides counsel to City Council on a dedicated assigned, constant basis.
Contracts are prepared in-house, which is efficient due to the close association between the contract preparation process and the City Council agenda process.
5. Document Preparation:
The Office is constantly required to prepare various legal documents, including releases, deeds, and hold-harmless agreements. Likewise, the office also reviews the legal sufficiency of documents received by the City.
6. Opinions: The Office must render legal opinions to the various elected officials and department heads. The Office is also required to respond to constant requests for advice that do not require formal opinions.
7. Risk Management:
As a subdivision to the Office of the City Attorney, Risk Management serves an important function in the reduction of liability costs against the City. It oversees the treatment of injured employees who may potentially file Workers’ Compensation claims. It receives and investigates Notices of Claims for tort litigation, oversees the State Temporary Disability Program, processes payment and reviews bills for medical treatment, coordinates and obtains insurance coverage, enforces PEOSHA and ADA compliance, and maintains confidential medical documentation.
8. Affirmative Action Compliance:
The Field Representative/Contract Compliance Officer and a staff attorney participate in the Affirmative Action Review Council which enforces affirmative action compliance in contracts over $50,000.00. The Office also ensures that mandatory affirmative action documentation is provided by its contractors.
9. Municipal Prosecution:
The Office currently contracts with outside counsel for the provision of municipal prosecution services.
10. Purchasing Review Committee:
A staff attorney participates in the Purchasing Review process and renders legal opinions regarding same.
11. Maintenance of Records:
The Office maintains the records of suits, claims and contracts. All claim notices are assigned to a staff attorney for pre-litigation evaluation and investigation recommendation.
With the exception of conflicts, overly complex and/or time consuming matters, the functions of the Office of the City Attorney are handled primarily in-house. As such, the Office saves on the cost that would be charged by private firms, and provides convenience, accessibility and municipal expertise to the City.