Oneida's DeBottis says issue is 'political witch hunt'

City attorney Michel DeBottis' time and pay were the subject of questioning again at the April 1 Oneida Common Council meeting.

Resident Shirley Lomery asked if DeBottis was going to be considered a department head who had to provide the council with a report as queried by Councilman Michael Murawski at a previous council meeting.

"Mr. DeBottis has provided a detailed statement of what he did for the relevant month," said Mayor Peter Hedglon. "I understand the council was satisfied by that. Because of the attorney/client privilege, a lot of what he does is confidential and not to be released to the public."

Murawski said he spoke with DeBottis and other council members and is satisfied with DeBottis' detailed vouchers.

DeBottis said most of the terms of his employment as city attorney are based on the city's past arrangements with his predecessor. He said the city attorney's salary was established by the last administration in its 2008 budget.

"One difference from prior city attorney agreements is that I am committed to work a specific amount of time on the city's routine legal matters, an average of 10 hours per week," DeBottis said.

With that time commitment, DeBottis said he charges the city half the hourly rate the DeBottis Law Firm charges private clients for its services.

According to DeBottis, the city does not pay extra compensation for hours works beyond the 10-hour-per-week commitment.

"Though in March I spent almost 50 hours on the city's routine legal work, I anticipate that work will average out to be about 10 hours per week," DeBottis said.

Consistent with past practice, DeBottis said, in addition to salary, the city attorney is paid on an hourly basis for litigation services. He said the city budgeted $5,000 for anticipated basic litigation in 2008. Litigation begun in 2008 have required less than two hours of time so far, he said, and unfinished 2007 litigation work was substantially completed in January.

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