After a few tweaks, Edmonds City Council approves Lighthouse contract

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By Harry Gatjens

By a unanimous vote, the Edmonds City Council at a special meeting Thursday approved the contract with new City Attorney The Lighthouse Law Group. Originally scheduled for approval at Tuesday’s regular council meeting, the decision was delayed while concerns of several councilmembers were addressed.

Items that were revised from the contract originally proposed on Tuesday were:

1.         Professional Liability Insurance. The contract calls for $2 million in professional liability insurance. At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilmember D.J. Wilson mentioned that the prior attorney carried $10 million, and asked about the change. It was pointed out that the request for qualifications that the city sent to all firms did ask for for $2 million, but some councilmembers said they wanted $10 million in liability insurance  nonetheless. As a result, the contract was initially changed to require $10 million, but not until 2013. However, at tonight’s meeting, the council decided to change it back to $2 million. (The link to the contract below shows the previous amount of $10 million.) It should be noted that the higher limit that the former City Attorney Ogden Murphy Wallace had in place applied to their clients in the medical field, not  the City of Edmonds, and that the standard for municipal clients is $2 million.

2.        Fee adjustments. The original contract called for Lighthouse to be able request at the end of each year that their fee be adjusted for the upcoming year. In addition, there was no cap and the contract called for Lighthouse to go to an hourly billing in the event that a new fee was not agreed to. Concerns were expressed that one reason for the change was to save money by hiring a firm that was charging a reduced fixed fee and if that were subject to renegotiation after one year, the savings could disappear almost overnight. The contract as shown in the link below states that the fee can’t be renegotiated until 2013, giving the City at least two years of assured pricing. Note, however, that in an even later revision of the contract Thursday morning, The Lighthouse Law Group agreed to no price changes throughout the four-year term. The price will be $32,000 monthly through 2014.

3.         Termination. The original contract allowed either party to cancel the contract with 6o days written notice. The revised contract gives only the city that right.

Beyond those major points, there were just a few typographical corrections made. For a view of the contract, go to the link here. The changes are highlighted in red.

10 COMMENTS

  1. So what is it 2 million now and forever or 10 million in 2 years cause that item is not crossed out in the contract. The way I read the contract they have to have more insurance in 2 years, if not why isn’t that stuff crossed out why they need 5 times as much in 2 years if thats true anybody have any answers.

  2. Mike: I made a point of getting the Lighthouse Group to lock in the $32,000/mo for four years. I wasn’t willing to support moving to their firm if we only had a year (actually only 6 months or so in the first contract) of fixed pricing. That was a substantially different agreement than Lighthouse had initially offered.

    Jeff Taraday and I got together by phone, and I asked that the $32,000/mo be extended for all 4 years, rather than subjecting the city to price increases each year. With reluctance, I think for obvious reasons, they agreed. However, they said that the pricing of $32,000/mo was based on costs including carrying only $2m in insurance a year.

    As this is the recommended amount for municipal law firms in the first place, and since we have our own insurance in place, I agreed to the $2m as part of the deal to secure a fixed price bid for 4 years.

    Given that I was the 4th and swing vote here, I had a bit more room for discussion with Jeff, and I appreciate very much his willingness to be open minded about my concerns. I’m looking forward to working with them.

  3. Sounds fair the only thing I will say to that if they get real busy that 2 million in insurance liability should be applyed to Edmonds. Im not certain how all that works, I can see why omw had 10 million there pretty big and have a lot of work, these guys will get more work thanks micheal

  4. I question Lighthouse’s judgement starting up a company to enter into a contract, having a frozen fee for 4 years, that can be cancelled by the city without cause after giving only 60 days notice. It seems like the odds are better in Las Vegas!

  5. Ron go back and read part 3 of the agreement its a 2 year contract, its frozen for 2 years that stuff is underlined not crossed out

  6. Mike:
    You need to read 3. in Harry’s report above and DJ’s comments; contract revions were revised again last night.

  7. Mike:

    You’re right, the city has a contract that certainly favors it. However in my experience for a relationship to succeed, contracts governing it must be fair for both parties. In addition to betting on not having to spend excessive hours dealing with litigation, Lighthouse has to hope that inflation does not accelerate in the next four years.

  8. Ron they will survive they might not get attorney prices for there work worse case but they will get paid and survive

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