Former AG recommends transparency in state contracts

By John O'Brien | Mar 15, 2011


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum recently wrote in an op-ed that more transparency is needed when state attorneys general hire private attorneys to represent the state.

McCollum made his point last week in the Wall Street Journal. During his time in office, he was a champion of that cause, helping bring about changes in the way a state board that controls securities lawsuits brought on behalf of Florida.

McCollum said transparency is key because state attorneys general have seen an increased role in consumer protection. Most states allow their attorneys general to hire private firms to represent the state on a contingency fee.

"Anytime an office hires private counsel on behalf of the state, attorneys general owe it to the taxpayers to be transparent and accountable in how and why they do so," McCollum wrote. "They should be able to articulate and demonstrate the value that outside counsel is providing to our states and to the taxpayers."

McCollum helped change outside counsel contracts signed by the State Board of Administration in 2010. A cap system now provides a certain amount of attorneys fees for each tier of an award or settlement and allows a maximum of $50 million. The measure also created more transparency in the bidding process and puts the firm's timesheets online.

In April, then-Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill that put the same system in place for the Attorney General's Office. It was known as the Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting law and was one of McCollum's goals.

Eleven states have introduced similar bills in their legislatures this year. They are Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

"Just as attorneys general have worked together to reshape their roles and step up consumer-protection actions, they should work together to ensure that the highest standards of transparency and accountability are practiced by all," McCollum wrote.

McCollum was unsuccessful in his effort to become the Republican nominee for governor last year. Pam Bondi is now the attorney general.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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