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- 2014 - August - 26th -
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City Council member Matt Schellenberg

Council members seeking legislation for outside legal help

By David Chapman, Staff Writer

The on-again, off-again talks about City Council having its own legal counsel are back on.

Council members Bill Gulliford and Matt Schellenberg will meet Wednesday to discuss the legislative body having its own legal counsel on certain matters.

Schellenberg said there were disagreements with former General Counsel Cindy Laquidara, which led to conflicting information or contradictions.

The general counselís office covers all city government, but some members suggested she was too close with Mayor Alvin Brownís office.

This idea of separate counsel isnít about that, he insisted ó there are no issues with acting General Counsel Jason Gabriel or others.

Instead, itís about having

an independent voice and guidance for matters that cause a conflict.

He said the arrangement would be on an as-needed basis with an attorney or firm, similar to when council approved hiring GrayRobinson last year for advice on pension issues.

Under that agreement, the fees and expenses were capped at $65,000.

Gulliford said heíll introduce legislation in the coming weeks.

Council President Clay Yarborough and member Bill Bishop have indicated they would sign on as co-sponsors, he said.

Like Schellenberg, Gulliford said it isnít about the job the current general counsel is doing. Instead itís about having the latitude on certain occasions to have an opinion from outside City Hall.

The charter allows it, he said, and the legislation would put into place the establishing framework.

As for funding, Gulliford said he didnít have particulars, but there is a retained earnings account within the general counselís office that could be a

source.

Schellenberg suggested it wouldnít be more than $100,000, with a $75-per-hour rate. He said he doubted all the funding would be used in a year.

And, when the situation arises on a as-needed basis where a second opinion is needed, council shouldnít hesitate to use the service, he said.

ďSometimes we need to have a second opinion,Ē he said. ďItís too important.Ē

dchapman@baileypub.com

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

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