Public Lands Chairs Address Billing Questions
Utah’s Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands is working to reclaim Utah’s public lands. As a part of this effort, the Commission hired attorneys to investigate the legal feasibility of managing our own public lands and lay the groundwork for possible action. The invoices are available to the public and can be found here (located under the ‘Related Links’ tab). Wednesday, July 6, 2016, a D.C.-based advocacy group raised questions about a small percentage of the expenses.
Representative Keven J. Stratton and Senator David Hinkins, chairs of the Commission on the Stewardship of Public Lands, issued the following statement:
Questions raised in the media today shouldn’t diminish efforts to investigate the legal feasibility of Utah’s work to manage public lands at a local level, which a majority of Utahns support. We are pleased with the accomplishments of the Commission thus far. Based upon expenses to date, we anticipate spending less than half of our allocated budget for the first phase of this endeavor.
A politically-motivated letter, released today by a partisan advocacy group from Washington D.C., raises three concerns about payments made by the commission for outside legal services and communications work.
First, the letter asked questions about certain items billed by Davillier and Strata that may be prohibited by the contract. As in any billing situation, the Commission will seek direct reimbursement or a reduction in future bills to ensure that the state does not pay for prohibited expenses. We will require billing adjustments where warranted and will continue to carefully review and monitor future invoices. Davillier and Strata have worked at a significant discount, as well as performed work without billing. They have also indicated a willingness to reimburse wherever appropriate.
To address the second issue – questions about the accuracy of certain billings – the Commission continues to conduct internal review of all billing, including those identified, and require any necessary revisions.
Third, some have questions about whether certain other expenses are appropriate under the contract. In any contractual relationship, the parties to the contract are in the best position to determine whether they are receiving what each side promised. As Commission chairs, we are satisfied with the overall services and the progress Davillier and Strata have made.
The Commission established a multi-step process to review, approve and pay the bills. Despite the impression created by some of today’s media coverage, the process was designed to ensure that the Commission received the information and assistance promised by the contracts at a reasonable price. This has generally worked very well. It is more than presumptuous for a partisan group that has publicly stated its opposition to the Commission’s work, to suggest that they can more objectively evaluate whether services provided are what the Commission required.
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