by J. Brooks Terry
General Counsel Rick Mullaney has created a new legislative department charged primarily with serving the needs of the City Council, but with a more increased presence than in recent years.
Council president Lad Daniels said the impending departure of Jeanne Miller, assistant general counsel, provided an impetus for the creation of the department.
“When we found out [Miller, who is joining the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission] was leaving I went to [Mullaney] to talk about what we should do,” said Daniels. “In the end, it made sense to have a department that can provide a new depth of services to us while we continue to receive a greater volume of complex work.”
Attorney Steve Rohan, who has been with the City for over 22 years, will head the department and, according to Daniels, will have “the ability to make recommendations” for increased productivity as needed. Rohan starts immediately.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” said Rohan who briefly entertained retiring. “I expect it will be a sacrifice with respect to my duties and time off, but I look at this as being an excellent opportunity for me to use my experience and status with the City to judge the needs of the Council and I agreed to do it.”
Rohan — he’s primarily worked as a trial attorney in the past — said no legislation or budgetary allocations would be required as a result of the new department.
“It’s completely within the focus of the OGC to do something like this and after a short transition period, I should be able to establish what the appropriate legal staffing and relationship between the Office of the General Counsel and the City Council should be,” he said. “This isn’t a streamlining effort. It’s giving more focus and more attention to the role of the Office of the General Counsel.”
In addition, Rohan — he’ll be joined by assistant General Counsel Peggy Sidman — will maintain a satellite office within the Council offices.
“Between Peggy and myself, I believe we’ll be in there about half of the time,” said Rohan.
“I think it’s great thing for everyone,” said Sidman. “Something like this, an entirely new department dedicated to the Council, will allow us better access to our client. It can be win/win all the way.”
“This is the first time they’ve had a real physical presence in our offices,” said Daniels. “I believe it will allow them a greater appreciation of our mutual needs.”