City interviews attorneys
For the past few days, members of the City of Washington city attorney transitional task force have been interviewing five law firms to determine which is going to provide the city’s legal services during the coming term — and the current city attorney’s law firm was not one of them.
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.
City administrator Brent Hinson said that the council had approved getting proposals from attorneys to fill the role of city attorney.
During the June 5 meeting, council member Bob Shepherd said that the task force was exploring options for the city attorney’s position because an investigation had not been done in years. Council member Bob Shellmyer had asked when such a study would be done on the city clerk and city administrator’s positions.
Hinson said that requests for proposal had been sent to 33 law firms, including the ones in the city. While he declined to say which law firms had been interviewed as the top five candidates, he said only one had been from Washington. He said the candidates would be disclosed when the time to make a selection was closer.
“At this point we haven’t made any sort of decision or recommendation as a committee,” Hinson said. “We are going to meet later on in the week and talk over that and decide how to approach it.”
The city uses out-of county attorneys for a variety of things, such as bonding. Hinson said that much of the business is done on the phone or by email. He said that if one became a city attorney, the council would have to consider such things as the requirement to come to all council meetings.
Hinson referred questions about Arbuckle’s plans to Arbuckle. He 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. He also said there is no obligation for the city to choose a different attorney.
The task force is made up of Mayor Sandra Johnson, two council members, and three staff members.