Attorney search continuesCouncil will hold work session Wednesday evening
After interviewing three final candidates to take the position of city attorney, members of the Washington City Council found themselves not agreeing on who should be the successful candidate.
During a special meeting Friday, the council interviewed Scheldrup Blades of Cedar Rapids, Lynch Dallas of Cedar Rapids, and Kevin Olson of Coralville as the three finalists. The three were selected from 15 candidates for the position. As the council members discussed among themselves which candidate was the best choice, many different opinions were given.
“Right now I don’t think this council can pick one,” council member Merle Hagie said during discussion. “I don’t think this council at this present time will come up with a consensus.”
Council member Fred Stark disagreed, saying he believed the council could make a decision.
City council and task force member Bob Shepherd said that he wanted to know what the city’s department heads were looking for in a city attorney, but that the final decision would be the council’s. Police chief Greg Goodman and building superintendent Steve Donnolly were also at the interviews. Shepherd said that the department heads would have to work most closely with the city attorney.
The council decided to have a work session at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Washington Public Library Nicola-Stouffer room to further discuss the candidates.
The city attorney selection task force had conducted initial interviews with candidates in closed session. City council member Bob Shellmyer objected to this, saying it violated open meetings laws. Shellmyer said as a citizen he is entitled to know what is happening in city government and that he feels the city should be transparent on all such subjects.
Craig Arbuckle, who has served as the city’s attorney for the past 33 years, confirmed that he had submitted a proposal to serve as the city attorney for one more two-year term, beginning Jan. 1, 2014. He said that when the city had interviewed the final five candidates, his law firm was not among them. He said that the idea of stepping down from the position of city attorney had been on his mind for a while, but that he had not decided when he wanted to leave.
“I had been weighing seeking one more two-year appointment,” Arbuckle said. “Most recently I was leaning toward one more appointment.”
He said that he had based his decision on how long he thought the transition process would be. He said that he plans to work with his successor to ensure the new city attorney knows the business of the city. Arbuckle served as a member of the task force and was at the interviews.
City administrator Brent Hinson said that the intent of the process is that Arbuckle was stepping down and the new attorney would be a replacement. He said the decision of the new attorney would be made by the full city council. Hinson also said that Arbuckle had not submitted a resignation, but had submitted a letter indicating cooperation and support of the task force.
Hinson recommended that the council make a final selection and send him or Mayor Sandra Johnson to negotiate the details with the candidate. The council would have to vote on the candidate after the negotiation is complete. Shellmyer said that he would like to negotiate with the candidate and that he is a “hard-nosed negotiator” and Hinson isn’t.