CLINTON — Effective January 2, 2014, the city of Clinton could begin its search for a new city attorney, pending a vote of approval by the Clinton City Council on Dec. 20.
At a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, At-Large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf stunned the audience when she made a motion asking Jeff Farwell to resign from his position as city attorney.
“Given the turnover with the elected officials for the city of Clinton, this new council should be entitled to have the legal representation of their own choosing,” Graf said. “So, I would therefore make the recommendation that the city attorney tender his resignation.”
The motion, which Ward 2 Councilwoman Julie Allesee quickly seconded, quieted the room before Farwell spoke up and expressed his feelings about the request.
“In May of 2010 when I started, the city went through an interview, review process and I was selected. There were four new members coming on the council at that time and they got to choose who they wanted,” Farwell said. “We’re kind of in the same situation. You’ve got four new members coming on and I guess it works the same way. They should have who they want.”
Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich verbalized his opposition to the council’s recommendation, stating the city needs to find a level of stability with its hired officials otherwise will run the risk of being unable to find a suitable candidate to fill the position in the future.
“We had a city attorney for years, that was 30 years I believe, with Bruce Johansen. Since then we’ve had Matt Brisch, Paul Walter and now Jeff,” Vulich said. “I think there’s importance to have some continuity and stability in the office. Every time you get a new council, that you’re going to get a new city attorney I don’t think is going to lend itself to being able to hire anyone because they’re going to assume in two years, when there’s potentially a new council, their job would end.”
He added that by allowing new City Council members their choice of a city attorney, the same principles should be adopted for the selection of a city administrator.
Vulich wasn’t the only one to oppose the recommendation made by Graf; Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman also disagreed and represented the only negative vote in the final 6 to 1 tally.
With the nearly unanimous vote, the motion moved forward to the Dec. 20 City Council meeting. If the council votes in favor of the recommendation then, Farwell’s resignation will be filed on Jan. 2, 2014, when the new council members are sworn in to office and he will receive a six-month severance package as well as six months of medical insurance coverage from the city.
Although the majority of the council agreed on the request for resignation, some offered their praise with the work Farwell has done in more than three years of service. Councilwoman Maggie Klaes voted yes during roll call, but afterword thanked Farwell for his work with the city and members of the council.
“I just want to say thank you to Jeff, as he has done a wonderful job as our city attorney these last three and a half years. It breaks my heart that the city will lose you at this point in time,” Klaes said. “I can understand with the changeover of four of the council members. It is for the best. Thank you for everything you did.”