I don’t know Catherine Pritchard other than that she answers questions of public interest for the Fayetteville Observer once a week. By the number of comments receilved on one of her recent columns — 0 — it’s obvious the public wasn’t that interested.
But they should have been. The question posed to Pritchard was how much the county’s Mental Health Center chairman was paid. The answer, nothing, and not particuarly interesting. But the board paying Fayetteville-based attorneys The Charleston Group almost $119,000 dollars for legal services last year? Hmmm ….
The rest of the brief column was from the firm’s press release describing services rendered and since it was The Charleston Group describing the Charleston Group, they were impressive.
“The firm is responsible for making sure the board and the Mental Health Center are operating within the law at all times,” the release states. The editor in me wants to run a redundancy check to question if cheaper, time-limited options weren’t available, say Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 and until noon on Saturday, with all staff and board members pledging to behave nights and weekends. But, I digress.
As editor, advocate or taxpayer, however, a bill of $118,703.75 has to be questioned.
Maybe The Charleston Group is providing incredible service at bargain rates.They could well be. Everything cost more and each time I go for a medical procedure — you’ know you’re old when you start calling them procedures — I’m in shock and awe. But a body really gets shocked and awed when they run those numbers on out.
A rarity as a one-county Local Management Entity, Cumberland Mental Health Center oversees mental health services to the countys population of 312,696. My trusty but worn No 2 calculator tells me that at $118,703, services rendered by The Charleston Group work out to 37.9 cents a person. Extrapolated to the state’s population of 9,330,884, that would mean legal services are costing state LME’s $3,560,984 annually.
$3.5 million. Inquiring minds want to know. Are these fees reasonable? What are other LMEs paying for legal services? What’s the cost statewide? What other entities, public or private sector, do these firms provide services to? What, if any, are the conflicts?
To find out, simply click the donate button, put the number of your choice followed by a lot of “0s.” Then using your real name and real credit card number, push submit. Otherwise, we’ll just have to assume officials are keeping close tabs on our tax dollars and spending them to the greatest good of our state’s citizens.
North Carolina Mental Hope