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7 News fact check: Ogdensburg’s city attorney payment & attendance at council meetings

City of Ogdensburg
City of Ogdensburg(WWNY)
Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 11:58 AM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - We did some fact checking on a story we did Monday about Ogdensburg and how its city attorney gets paid.

The issue most recently came up as city council debates spending money to open a beach.

In our story Monday, there were 2 viewpoints from council members: that the city lawyer is on retainer and it wouldn’t cost anything to have the lawyer at council meetings versus the lawyer is paid when called upon and, by not having the lawyer at the city council meetings, it’s saving the city money.

7 News requested the contract Ogdensburg has with the lawyer under the Freedom of Information Act.

We got it and the contract, agreed to under the Sarah Purdy administration, does not have a retainer. The city pays an hourly rate of $190 an hour for attorneys, and $110 for paralegals.

The other argument is: the Ogdensburg city charter stipulates the city attorney must attend the council meetings.

City Manager Stephen Jellie confirms the charter does say that.

But, the fact remains the attorney is not at all meetings.

Mayor Mike Skelly would contend it’s saving money. The other side sees this as a clear violation of the charter and they are seeking outside legal advice.

Councillor Mike Powers said he is exploring options related to the operation of open government through various channels in Albany, including the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics as well as the state Office of the Attorney General.

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