Since You Asked: Special attorneys hired by the hour

In the Aug. 28 edition of the Mail Tribune it is revealed that the county's lead attorney has resigned. The article also stated that "The county counsel's office provides legal advice to the commissioners and other departments, both internally and during public meetings." In addition, it seems that Doug McGeary, (who just left as lead counsel), and Mike Jewett, who preceded McGeary, will continue to perform legal work for the county on a contractual basis. Will you be kind enough to explain to me, and the public in general, how many attorneys are on the hidden payroll, i.e. "personal service contracts," and how much is their payment? What do they do that is different from the county counsel's job?

— Charles T., Central Point

If you needed brain surgery would you let a foot doctor operate on you? Well, according to the county that's the situation it faces when it hires outside attorneys to help the county on specific tasks. Deputy County Administrator Harvey Bragg said it was difficult to come up with a precise number because each department at the county requires a specialized attorney from time to time. But Bragg said he counted nine law firms that helped various departments last fiscal year at a cost that wasn't to exceed $550,000.

They hired attorneys who specialized in labor law for labor negotiations.

They hired a law firm to develop the legal language for new Medford airport terminal bonds.

On certain insurance cases, the insurance provider has its own attorneys.

The county also needs land-use lawyers from time to time.

Anytime the county does anything it has to refer to a myriad of federal, state and local laws to make sure it is in compliance. Most of the time, it can rely on the attorneys in the county counsel's office, but in certain situations they have to call in specialists.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to

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