The Hyattsville City Council approved a $10,000 contract extension with former City Administrator Elaine Murphy for legal research related to lawsuits filed against the city. But the extension drew the scrutiny of two members of City Council whose questions to City Attorney Richard Colaresi and Police Chief and Acting City Administrator Doug Holland revealed that Murphy's contract costs had been bloated by administrative mission creep.
Ward Four Councilor Ruth Ann Frazier had questions about the cost overruns for the legal research contract. Noting that this was not the first time that Murphy's contract had been extended, Frazier asked if Murphy was "taking on too many chores?"
Chief Doug Holland said that the contractor has taken on additional responsibilities since starting her original contract, including lending a hand in administrative tasks. Holland also said that Murphy had conducted a grievance hearing directed against himself, further taking up Murphy's contract time.
City Attorney Richard Colaresi said that Murphy was needed now because depositions had begun in a civil rights and workplace discrimination lawsuit filed against the city by a former police officer.
"Elaine is crucial," said Colaresi to City Council. "I'm very happy with how the case is proceeding, by the way, and her assistance has been invaluable."
Colaresi said that Murphy would now be focused on document research arising out of the pending lawsuits before the city.
Frazier said she was not questioning Murphy's value as a contractor. But she wondered if Murphy's "invaluable" work indicated that the city needed more administrative staff.
"I am just saying that if the circumstances were not what they are…who would be doing the work?" Asked Frazier. "We've been saying we don't need an assistant city administrator. Do we?
Ward 5 Councilor Paula Perry said that the City Council deserved to be notified earlier of changes in the scope of Murphy's work.
"If we're deviating from the purpose of the money, we should at least be informed," said Perry.
Following Frazier and Perry's questions, the City Council unanimously approved the contract extension.