The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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April 21, 2014

Work still needed on legal services

CLINTON — During Tuesday’s meeting, the Clinton City Council is expected to finalize its agreement with Cedar Rapids firm Lynch Dallas, officially filling Clinton’s city attorney void that has lasted nearly five months.

The firm’s scope, spelled out in the agreement, encompasses 32 items, among them drafting ordinances, labor and employment litigation, planning and zoning issues.

But the council’s work is only partly done in regard to its attorney search.

Before ex-city attorney Jeff Farwell’s December resignation, the city always employed a full-time staff member to oversee all law-related matters. This didn’t prevent Clinton from contracting with other firms on various cases before, but now that council members have done away with the former attorney format, more discussion is in order.

Throughout the process, City Administrator Jessica Kinser has advised the council will have to change ordinances to “ensure the legal authority for this new arrangement exists.” She is recommending the council define “legal services” through a paragraph in city code, and re-word some of the ordinances to consider the new agreement.

“This insertion of language gives the council the flexibility to again look at an employed position without having to do a complete rewrite of the Code of Ordinances,” Kinser wrote in a memo to Mayor Mark Vulich last week, “if deemed desirable to do so in the future.”

Meanwhile, the duties to be fulfilled by Lynch Dallas pertain to nearly all municipal legal objectives. One task missing from the firm’s scope is prosecuting offenders.

Cities comparable to Clinton employ a city prosecutor who handles courtroom ordinance violations. During Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, city leaders will discuss if this is also the route for Clinton. If so, the city will issue another request for proposals.

Kinser has been in touch with Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf over the possibilities, but in another memo, the administrator said this is “no longer an option.”

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