Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Suffolk County Sheriff Weirdness Update

In response to this post, we get a comment:

When the Sheriff's Department terminated the lease, it didn't do so because of the missing auditor's certification. It terminated for a much more pedestrian reason: the landlord had not completed construction work required under the lease within the time permitted. The landlord had a creative lawyer who argued, the first time the case went up on appeal in 2004, that in light of a statute applicable only to Boston and Suffolk County contracts, the time for construction had not begun to run until the mayor approved the contract, which, if true, would mean that the Sheriff's termination was untimely and improper.

Only on remand did the Sheriff's Department raise the statute's requirement of an auditor's certification. So the landlord was hoist by its own petard.

Fascinating. There are two responses. First, this happens all the time. Lawyers get cute ideas, employ them to get out of small messes, and create much bigger messes in the process. Exhibit A would be Vice President Cheney’s contention that he’s not a member of the executive branch. Cute. But when David Addington came up with it, did he realize that Larry King would ask his boss about it on national television?*

Second, the comment still doesn’t explain Auditor’s nonsensical certification: “APPROVED AS TO AVAILABILITY OF APPROPRIATION OR PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 12.2 OF THE GENERAL CONDITIONS IN THE AMOUNT OF $0.00.” What does that even mean? Any ideas?

*Aside: maybe he did and he didn't he care. This administration has really changed how we’re all going to think about political courage. There’s a difference, after all, between taking an unpopular and unbending stand in support of a demonstratively failed policy and taking an unpopular and unbending stand in support of a policy that history ultimately proves right. Cheney, Addington et al. still, admittedly, have a chance of being absolved by history. But it’s a very slim chance.

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