A councilman’s proposal for hiring an in house attorney may have merit.
A suggestion by Rich Melton, councilmember, on the need for an in-house Gardner city attorney might have merit, although auditing requirements on the firm’s time might be a good first step.
At the April 3 council meeting, Melton voiced concern regarding attorney bills from McAnany, Van Cleave & Phillips, of which Ryan Denk, city attorney, is a senior partner. Steve Shute, council president, echoed that it may be time for Gardner to consider hiring an on-staff attorney due to the city’s growth.
A recent monthly attorney bill was $34,000, Melton said.
Gardner is charged $205 per hour for Denk, with lesser fees for associates and legal assistants.
The Gardner News requested attorney bills for the first quarter of 2017, and itemized invoices received to date, were reviewed; it appears there are many demands on the firm’s time.
Some of the billable hours are for routine items: reviewing the Gardner Land Development Code, reviewing franchise agreements, assisting in preparation and attending city council meetings, responding to department directors’ requests, reviewing ongoing litigation and responding to city council members or members of the public.
However, a recent spate of controversy involving a proposed censure motion, and the council’s decision to become involved in employee evaluations, has added significantly to the city’s legal costs.
A review of one invoice indicates more than $3,100 was billed to the city regarding a proposed censure motion of the mayor.
Totals for the foray into employee evaluation process – which until this year was handled by city staff – is not yet completed, but it probably will top the censure’s $3,100. The Gardner News will not have a total on that process until all invoices are received. See ****, page 5