Edmonds City Council to take testimony on City Attorney applicants Tuesday

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The Edmonds City Council is scheduled to take public testimony Tuesday night on who should receive the contract to provide City of Edmonds attorney services, with the choice coming down to current City Attorney Scott Snyder of Ogden Murphy Wallace, and the Lighthouse Law Group.

At last week’s meeting, the council narrowed the list of possible city attorney candidates from four to two. Some citizens feel strongly that the city should hire a new attorney, while others have praised Snyder’s experience and history in the job, so expect Tuesday night’s meeting to be well-attended. The council is scheduled to make a final decision on Feb. 22.

You can review the application of Lighthouse Law Group here and Ogden Murphy Wallace here.

The following items are also on the council agenda:

– Acceptance of an award from the U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR program in recognition of the energy-efficient operation of City Hall.

– A public hearing on reconsideration of an ordinance amending home occupations under the Edmonds Community Development Code.

– Approval of an ordinance authorizing the refinancing of city bonds.

-Confirmation of Mayor Mike Cooper’s appointment of Olbrechts & Associates PLLC as the City’s Hearing Examiner and approval of the proposed professional services contract.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I feel that the 4 candidates for city attorney should remain in the running, because there has not been sufficient opportunity for citizens to provide their input at a council meeting. I base that view on the fact that this topic was discussed soley at a meeting on a second Tuesday – which is not a normal night for council meetings – and at a meeting that started at 6 pm – which is not a normal starting time. I urge any council member who voted with the majority to introduce a motion to reconsider.

    Secondly, I hope that council members realize that qualifications to do the job trump cost to do the job. If a firm is selected that is unable to get the job done for our city, it will be little solace to know that you’ve saved the city some money.

  2. I am concerned that the Robert’s Rules of Order were not followed when the Council winnowed the City Attorney candidates from four to two.
    The February 1st meeting minutes document that Council President Peterson clarified the motion and dates as follows:

    Council President Peterson clarified the dates as follows:
    February 8: Public comment with the POSSIBILITY of reducing the number of candidates
    February 22: Final deliberations and decision with staff and Mayor input
    MAIN MOTION AS AMENDED CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.

    POSSIBLY reducing the number of candidates is much different from actually agreeing to do so and defining the process and requirements for a City Attorney candidate to stay in the race. Supporting this argument is Diane Buckshnis’ comment (after DJ Wilson’s February 8th motion supporting Ogden Murphy Wallace was made) that she wants all four candidates to move forward. I believe Ms. Buckshnis would not have said this at this point in the meeting if she believed the Council had unanimously agreed to reduce the number of candidates. I believe Lora Petso is another council member who had represented she did not want to narrow the field…so how could the City Council have unanimously agreed to do such on February 1st or February 8th? I believe the Council only agreed to possibly reduce the field….I believe there never was a vote taken to convert that possibility to an agreed upon action, nor was there a vote taken to agree on a procedure to accomplish such.

    Ron, I strongly disagree with your inference that cost should not be a significant factor in the decision. Remember that the field was originally 11 candidates. All four finalists have City Attorney experience and appear very qualified to do the job. In this economic environment, cost differences must be weighed heavily in the final decision.

  3. This is for those interested in attending the February 15, 2011 City Council Meeting and making a public comment supporting one of the finalists during the Audience Comment Period. Public Comment is Item Number 4 on Tuesday night’s Agenda, so it would be wise to arrive by 7:00 p.m. as Public Comment may commence anywhere between 7:05 p.m. and 7:20 p.m.

    If you are unable to attend the February 15, 2011 City Council Meeting in person, an alternative is to write an email supporting one of the finalists and email it to Jana Spellman, City Administrative Assistant, as well as all seven City Council members. Email addresses are available on the City’s website.

    Please do not understimate how important this decision is. Our City Council needs to hear from the citizens.

  4. I don’t know ken I watched the meeting looks like there down to two odgen murphy wallace and LIghthouse, omw and scott snyder have been around a long time and we are paying for it. Look at the rate differance $210.00 compared to $150.00 does the city need to be paying that much money for frankly a lot of city stuff, this isn’t criminal law its city adminstrive stuff most of the time, I like new young and less money

  5. Hi Mike, excellent point of clarification…we are down to two candidates unless the City Council takes some type of step tomorrow night to bring the two eliminated firms back in as finalists…or something else happens that results in the same. I think it prudent to focus on the two finalists as it now sits.

    Please let the City Council know your preference.

    I prefer the Lighthouse Group also and their fixed proposal of $384,000 per year including litigation. I found a spreadsheet titled 2010 Legal Fees Ogden Murphy Wallace on the City’s website which indicates 2010 Legal Fees of $530,729.48.

    I found another spreadsheet titled 2009 Legal Fees Billed – City Attorney Ogden Murphy Wallace on the City’s website which indicates 2009 Legal Fees Billed of
    $531,481.22.

    Lighthouse’s fixed proposal appears to offer the City significant annual savings of nearly $150,000. I have not audited the two spreadsheets on the City’s website but they do offer an indication of potential costs savings available when compared to the Lighthouse Fixed Proposal.

    Both Spreadsheets on the City’s website contain a reduction for something called “Less ECDC Rewrite & Retainer Legislative”.

    Perhaps somebody can offer an explanation of what that represents. I have an idea but don’t want to state such until I know for sure what it is.

  6. My view is that it would be very risky to enter into a long-term contract with Lighthouse. This is a firm that did not exist prior to our city’s solicitation for proposals to provide legal services; the company was formed last October – only 4 months ago! Additionally, their employment and labor relations expert is actually an employee of Nordstrom. For me, there’s more downside risk than there is upside potential with Lighthouse.

    Now, hopefully, Gary Mclean will be allowed back in the running as he may be the top candidate.

  7. I just checked the cities web sight and council agenda. and there is no mention of the city attorney or taking testimoney I hope if the agenda has changed the websight should be changed. My only comment would be that price should never be the prime concideration in matters suchs as this. Also I am concerned about the reasons for the change as only cost has been mentioned. Remember the council is responsibale for approving litagation costs.

  8. Ken or anybody else I can’t find jana spellmans email address with the city can anybody help me out, I not real good with writing in a bunch of addresses on emails thanks

  9. Hi Don,

    There is nothing specific to the City Attorney Selection Process on the City Council agenda for tomorrow evening….as Ron stated earlier, “this topic was discussed solely at a meeting on a second Tuesday – which is not a normal night for council meetings – and at a meeting that started at 6 pm – which is not a normal starting time.” As a result, only two people provided public comment during the February 8th City Council Meeting. Now, the Public’s only remaining opportunity to comment on whom they support for City Attorney is during tomorrow evening’s open Audience Comment Period.

    Furthermore, as I stated earlier, I fear Robert’s Rules of Order were not followed when the Council winnowed the City Attorney candidates from four to two.

    The confusion and the fact citizens are still discussing how many finalists are left provide evidence this process has not been handled very well.

    It all started back on August 24, 2010 when the Council voted to put out an RFQ for City Attorney with all deliberate speed. I believe it took City Staff over 2 months to do so, despite the Council’s clear request to do so with all deliberate speed.

    There was and still appears to be confusion related to the City Attorney selection process because ECDC 2.05.010 still contains a blue hyperlink to Chapter 2.80, a Code section that was repealed over 10 years ago.

    2.05.010 Legal counsel – Professional services contract.
    Legal counsel services for the city of Edmonds, Snohomish County, Washington pursuant to the provisions of RCW 35A.12.020 shall be provided through a professional services contract. The professional services contract shall be let on such basis as a majority of the Edmonds city council shall determine. The city council shall utilize the consultant selection process established by Chapter 2.80 ECC provided that the mayor shall participate with the city council consultant selection committee in the selection of up to three candidates for presentation to the city council for its final approval.

    A. By its contract, the city council shall approve an individual or firm to be designated as city attorney. [Ord. 3000 § 1, 1994; Ord. 2996 § 1, 1994; Ord. 926 § 1, 1962].

    Was the City Council supposed to form a City Council consultant selection committee? Who knows with our Code.

    Do you believe their should be some type of accountability related to the condition of our Code?

  10. Ron, the Draft Meeting Minutes for the February 8, 2011 City Council meeting contains the following:

    “Mayor Cooper assumed the Council could offer a one-year contract to the candidate selected during final deliberations. The code does not specify the term of the City Attorney, unlike the Hearing Examiner which the code specifies is a four year term. He suggested Councilmember Fraley-Monillas make a motion that the Council planned to offer a one-year contract for the purpose of exploring an in-house attorney during the coming year or wait until clarification is provided on February 22.”

    Hence, it looks to me as if there is some flexibility as to term of the contract. During this economic downturn, I think a good argument can be made that it would be risky to enter into a long term contract with any law firm. Furthermore, it sounds like some of our Councilmembers want to explore the option of utilizing an in house attorney.

    I think it would be prudent to figure this all out before any City Attorney long term contracts are entered into.

  11. Ken, Yes I do and it lands right at the feet of the city council. It suprised me when they decide to eleminate two of the canidates on feb 8th. the agenda for that nite read public comment and deliberations regarding canidates which didnt make it very clear as to what the council was going to do, it certianly didnt lead one to believe there would be a vote to weed out the canidates

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