|Assistant City Attorney Allison Bastain|
Here is our initial request, sent to the city September 12, 2013 and forwarded within the hour to the legal department by City Secretary Estela Von Hatten:
Please share the cases worked by City Attorney Mark Sossi during fiscal 2013 and the amount of payouts by the city, if any, in settling those cases.
|City Attorney Mark Sossi|
Ms. Bastion's succinct answer to our question about Sossi's workload is that City Attorney Mark Sossi does not actually represent the city in litigation, being far too busy for that as he serves as sort of a shop foreman, a legal overseer for the city's legal department and two secretaries. Prompting our question was the extraordinary amount of legal fees extended to Attorney Ricardo Navarro in stonewalling arbitration cases involving the Brownsville Fire Fighters and Paramedics(purported to be at least $790,722 since 2010), and the recent revelation that Judge Andrew S. Hanen's wife, Attorney Diane Dillard was utilized in some undisclosed legal way by the City of Brownsville for fees totaling $32,124.50. I guess it was naive of me to assume that Sossi under contract with the city for $120,000 plus $60,000 more from taxpayer funds siphoned to the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation and Assistant City Attorneys John Chosy and Allison Bastain, paid $84,872 and $58,704 respectively could actually represent the city in litigation, real estate transactions or labor arbitration. Why, even Tony Martinez' law partner, Horacio Barrera, had to be called into service to negotiate the purchase of the Casa del Nylon building. Below is Ms. Bastain's cover letter for the documents sent:
To: 'Jim Barton'
This is in response to your public information request of September 12, 2013, which you subsequently clarified for me a couple of days ago.
In regards to any litigation Mr. Sossi has handled, the city (through insurance) employs outside counsel to handle most litigation matters. Therefore, the payout for any litigation he has handled is zero. Our department is simply not large enough nor sufficiently equipped or funded to practice litigation. This is the case with most cities in Texas—only the larger cities, such as Houston or Dallas, have their own in-house litigation departments. The rest farm theirs out to outside counsel, like we do.
As for the bulk of Mr. Sossi’s work, which involves transactional matters, there is no one document or list that exists containing all of the matters Mark Sossi works on. One item I can provide for you which is responsive to your request are copies of our most recent contract logs--these constitute our inter-office tracking of certain contracts, ordinances, resolutions, and agreements our department evaluates for various city departments. These documents (attached) represent a portion of what Mr. Sossi does as city attorney.
Since there really are not any comprehensive documents which outline what Mr. Sossi does as city attorney, I wanted to at least expand a little and give you an idea of what he does, as I think it is sometimes misunderstood by some in the community.
As I pointed out in my e-mail to you from a couple of days ago, Mr. Sossi oversees and administers the legal department containing three other attorneys besides himself, and also two legal secretaries. Besides evaluating contracts, he represents the city in economic development negotiations and the drafting of any related contracts, agreements, or other documentation--examples from the past year include negotiations related to the Tenaska power plant, economic issues between the city and the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, issues with Cameron County and other entities in the attempt to land SpaceX in our community, and the recent departure of T-Mobile--he was responsible for the recoup of over two million dollars from T-Mobile when they removed their call center from the city of Brownsville.
Also, he of course acts as parliamentarian at commission meetings and also advises the mayor and commission on legal issues and conducts much research and related drafting for them on a regular basis--pretty much weekly.
Also during the past year (as well as in 2009), he took the lead in developing and implementing strategies behind protecting Brownsville from certain proposed state legislation, which would have been adverse to city interests, regarding municipal territory and annexation--in both 2009 and 2013 he represented the city in negotiating with neighboring cities regarding the size of the Brownsville extra-territorial jurisdiction, which resulted in the failure of the legislation and enabling the city to keep all its existing territory and annexation powers.
These are just examples and are not exhaustive—I haven’t included the day-to-day questions, meetings, and other things inherent in the day-to-day operations of the legal department. As I said, since no comprehensive document or documents exists outlining his workload, I wanted to at least provide you a more thorough response and give you an idea as to his tasks and responsibilities as city attorney.
Hope that helps; have a great day.
What Ms. Bastain sent in substantiation of Sossi's work on behalf of the City of Brownsville were 29 filled in copies of the city's Legal Contract Log listing contracts presented to the city. Each line gives a contract description, the department involved and is dated. On each line one of three boxes is checked: approved, approved with revisions and rejected. Then each contract ruling is initialed by one of the city's attorneys. Of the 282 contracts reviewed, Mark Sossi initialed 129, while Allison Bastain reviewed 153. Of the 282 contracts up for approval, 213 were approved outright, 53 more approved after revisions and 16 rejected.
We received 29 of these Legal Contract Logs representing the contracts that came before the city's legal department for approval during the preceding 12 months. The lawyer marks with an "X" contracts approved or rejected. To the far right appear the initials M.S. and A.B. Taking Ms. Bastain's word for it, that Sossi's enormous workload prohibits him from representing the city in litigation, how the hell does he find time to also represent the GBIC board AND engage in private practice in Brownsville?