City looks for long term legal services
By KATHERINE SMITH
Covington Reporter Reporter
January 24, 2013 · 1:48 PM
The city of Maple Valley is taking the next steps in securing legal representation on a contract basis after eliminating the staff city attorney position late last year.
At the beginning of January the city entered into a three-month agreement with two attorneys from Lighthouse Law Group, Jeff Taraday and Patricia Taraday. That contract allows the city approximately 60 hours of services per month at a cost of about $11,000 per month, David Johnston, Maple Valley city manager, said. Those hours include attendance at City Council meetings, office hours on Tuesdays and additional time as needed, Johnston said.
This year the City Council has been faced with trying to close a $550,000 deficit in the general fund. Council members realized that legal services was an area costs could be trimmed, according to Johnston.
“We used other cities as models,” Johnston said. “We looked at Covington and Sammamish – they contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office, have separate fire districts, have no water or sewer utilities, they’re non-union and they contract legal services.”
The base budget for the city attorney position in Maple Valley, which was eliminated, was $260,000, Johnston said.
The city determined it could contract legal services for $175,000, saving the city $85,000 per year.
Johnston added that savings the first year would only amount to approximately $40,000 due to the severance package for the former city attorney.
In addition, the new contract will buy the city a set number of hours of services per month, should the city ever need to exceed the contracted amount, extra cost would be incurred.
“In a retaining contract you are buying access to their time, whether you use it or not,” Johnston said.
Johnston expected that the city would publish a request for services, advertising the search for an attorney to enter into a long term contract with, this week.
Next steps would then include receiving bids and interviewing firms. Johnston hopes to be able to make a recommendation to the City Council by the end of March, at which point the council will vote on whether or not to enter a contract with the recommended firm.
“If the marketplace didn’t say we could save money we wouldn’t have made the change,” Johnston said. “Before we cut services to our citizens we should show that we are doing what we can internally.”
Reach Katherine Smith firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter Katherine Smith at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.