The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


January 17, 2014

Comparable cities to Clinton contract for legal services



Burlington (which ranks just below Clinton with 25,665 citizens) filled its own city attorney vacancy within the last year. Its council hired Cedar Rapids group Lynch-Dallas to cover all municipal legal services. The city’s prosecutor handles claims against the city by individuals in court at approximately $30,000 annually. Lynch-Dallas handles municipal legal matters — land issues, union negotiations, civil rights and the like.

Attorney Pat O’Connell is considered Burlington’s “go-to” at the firm for these municipal matters at $135 per hour. O’Connell also happened to be at Tuesday’s COW meeting in Clinton to offer the council voluntary advice for contracting legal services.

As for availability — a concern voiced by several Clinton officials — Ferneau said if O’Connell is busy, someone else at the firm who specializes in municipal law is able to handle Burlington’s matters.

“We’ve had a very good experience with it,” Ferneau said. “We keep a lot of day-to-day contact with our attorneys.”

Legal service changes have taken place within the last five years for each city. Burlington and Muscatine divided theirs between prosecution and municipal work. Mason City hired two local firms to handle those specialties and added a third for economic development.

Regarding that firm — Ahlers and Cooney, P.C. out of Des Moines — Trout said there haven’t been any hiccups with responses either.

“We just started doing this about two years ago where we split it out like this with the firms,” he said. “I think it’s a good situation for us right now.”

If contracted services is the next step for Clinton, Kinser said Tuesday that it would require re-wording the city’s ordinance and an analysis of the current attorney role. Current city statute states the city attorney must also be a Clinton resident, and location was another primary concern for council members.

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