There’s a new city attorney in town.
The Edmonds City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to award the City Attorney contract to the Lighthouse Law Group. That means that the city will end its contract with Ogden Murphy Wallace – which has represented Edmonds since 1957 — and Attorney Scott Snyder, who has served as Edmonds’ City Attorney for the past 27 years. The Council directed Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper to work out the details of the transition.
Snyder has come under fire recently by some citizens and councilmembers for his handling of certain issues, ranging from improperly written code, to a discrimination complaint involving Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Michael Plunkett and City Finance Director Lorenzo Hines, to a delay in providing ordinances to the city, which prompted the now-famous removal of “no dogs allowed” signs along Sunset Avenue by then-City Council President Steve Bernheim. Also coming into question was the cost of Ogden Murphy Wallace’s services, which were priced significantly higher — a monthly retainer of $37,000 for general city work and additional billing for litigation — than the Lighthouse Group, which quoted an all-inclusive price of $32,000 a month with no additional charges.
Bernheim made the motion to approve the Lighthouse Group as City Attorney, seconded by Buckshnis. Plunkett noted that he was generally supportive of Lighthouse but was interesting in revisiting the application of another city attorney candidate, Weed Graafstra, so voted against Bernheim’s motion. Also joining in the majority yes vote for Lighthouse were Councilmembers Lora Petso and D.J. Wilson.
Wilson later called the vote “very difficult” due to his deep respect for Snyder. “The rational for change and the opportunity to do things a little differently, where we can save well over $200,000, is worth the risk” of switching to a new law firm, Wilson said.
Speaking against the motion and in favor of retaining Snyder was current Council President Strom Peterson, who said he had concerns about the Lighthouse Group’s “collective experience as a group” (the firm consists of several attorneys who currently have full-time jobs with other law firms and the City of Edmonds will be their first client). “I think it’s risky for the citizens of Edmonds to take that on,” Peterson said. “My concern is that we will be the test subject and I’m not comfortable with making that decision.”
Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, who had a bad cold so participated from home via phone conference, also voted against the proposal.
In other action Tuesday night, the council:
– Received a presentation on the findings of the 2010-11 Citizens Levy Committee, which will be posted soon on the City’s website and on My Edmonds News.
– Authorized the Mayor to sign an addendum to a professional services agreement with Perteet, Inc. for construction of an emergency access road in the Shell Valley, a 92-home neighborhood located near Yost Park. After hearing public testimony on the matter, the council amended the addendum to ensure — at the residents’ request — that the roadway be no wider than 15 feet to minimize impact on wetlands, reduce the cost and limit its use to emergency and public works vehicles.