How About Spending Less on Blood-Sucking Attorneys?




$267,530.74 in one month in Tustin.

Image by Dave Bruno,

That’s the check that the City of Tustin wrote to Woodruff Spradlin and Smart on their May checks for approval report.

One month of attorney bills.

The contract city attorney for Tustin may be a pretty smart guy with lots of experience, but really, over a quarter of a million dollars in one month?


At $200 an hour, which looks like their current rate, that’s 1300 hours. over thirty forty-hour weeks, of attorney time with a little money left over for copies at a quarter a copy. And let’s not forget that is for a part-time City Attorney, Doug Holland, Tustin’s City Attorney, who also has to put time in as City Attorney of Palm Springs.

So Holland must be getting a lot of help from the other 37 attorneys in his premier local government law firm.

WS&S listed $4,000 for “training”. Wonder what that was. Were they being trained?  You would think if they are pulling down a quarter million in a month, they could spring for their own training.

When Tustin Councilwoman Deborah Gavello published her March newsletter, the city had already paid Woodruff, Spradlin, and Smart $654,000 year to date, which pretty much used up the $660,000  annual budget for the City of Tustin. Of course, Tustin probably has more money for attorneys buried in their multiple redevelopment agency budgets and their water enterprise fund.

But they keep on spending, way beyond their original budget.

The March 25th check register showed another $99,673.00 to the lawyers, followed by $9,493.49 on April 1st.

No wonder they want to recall  “Let’s Sue ‘Em”  Mayor Jerry Amante. I’ve seen estimates that Mayor Amante’s legal vendetta against the Tustin School District to double-bill for permit and grading fees is now  in the quarter million dollar range. But who knows what “Red Tape Jerry”‘s War Against Old Town Tustin is costing?  Or how much Tustin spent in legal fees to fire the City Manager they had just hired and give him $200,000 in severance payment.

Of course, it’s unfair just to single out Tustin, which actually has one major lawsuit with SEMA Construction in addition to the frivolous spending to punish Tustin Unified. There are plenty of other cities and agencies where attorney bills are out of control. Remember our friends at the OC Fair Board, who went from under $100K a year to over $400,000 a year in their latest contract, with secret contracts with Dick Ackerman “not to lobby” while he contacted legislators at $400.00 an hour.

Costa Mesa’s contract attorneys have the meter running at a rate where you can hear a high-pitched whine as the billing escalates, and Costa Mesa’s draft city budget projects a 32% increase in costs for the City Attorney’s office, probably because they are so far over budget this year.

Here’s my suggestion to local leaders.


Cut your spending on lawyers, consultants and lobbyists in half before you lay off a single police officer or paramedic.

Cut the spending on suits in half. Pay them less per hour, and give them work orders with the number of hours rather than just pay their damn bills.

Let them move out of their 12th floor office in glass towers and into strip malls.

Spend tax dollars on something we actually need.

Update: The use of the hyperbolic term “blood-sucking” in reference to attorneys was in no way intended to denigrate vampires, mosquitoes, ticks or other creatures that actually suck blood. No animals were harmed in the writing or posting of this opinion.



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