Despite a fully-staffed Law Department, Pittsburgh City Council and mayor hire own lawyers

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The city is hiring attorneys and more attorneys, and the city’s taxpayers are footing the bill.

The city already has a fully staffed legal department, but the Pittsburgh City Council has appointed its own attorney, and Mayor Ed Gainey has hired his own legal counsel.

The City Legal Department has 34 attorneys and a projected budget of $3 million for next year, enough resources to handle all of the city’s legal affairs. But both the Pittsburgh City Council and the mayor have decided to hire their own attorneys.

Earlier this summer, the Pittsburgh City Council appointed Daniel Friedson as its “independent legal representative” with an annual salary of $90,872 per year. Council President Theresa Kail-Smith says his advice is sought on the legality of laws and conflicts with the administration.

“There are times when you don’t agree with an administration and with the legal department, so you want someone who can give you a different opinion,” Kail-Smith said.

Mayor Gainey has named Zeke Rediker his Executive Advisor on Legal Policy with a budget salary of $112,553. The mayor’s office emphasizes that he does not represent the mayor as legal counsel, but rather as an advisor on policy development and compliance on issues such as paid sick leave.

But lawyers outside City Hall are questioning the need.

“As an attorney, I have nothing against a full employment law for attorneys, but I think it’s a little redundant,” said Scott Avolio, a municipal attorney.

Local law experts say that almost all legal matters can be adequately handled by the already fully staffed legal department. They fear attorneys now standing at opposite ends of the 5th floor of the City County building will lead to litigation at public expense.

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“I think it could create conflict,” Avolio said. “I think it could create additional contention between the spoken voices.”

Sheehan: “You have a lot of lawyers up here.”

Kail Smith: “We’re in a very contentious society.”

Kail-Smith said the two could work together to avoid conflict and bad legislation.

“It’s money well spent to avoid money that isn’t well spent in court cases,” she said.