City Lawyering Up – May 26, 2011
Kevin L. Hoover
CITY HALL – City Manager Randy Mendosa will ask the City Council next week to hire alternate counsel to handle legal matters pertaining to recycling.
The Arcata Community Recycling Center (ACRC) had threatened to sue the Humboldt Waste Management Authority (HWMA) over HWMA’s intention to contract with Renewable Waste Systems of Willits for recycling processing. Arcata is a participating member of HWMA and might have been a co-defendant, though ACRC withdrew its Notice of Claims on May 16 after the HWMA postponed the contract decision.
City Attorney Nancy Diamond also serves as attorney for HWMA, and ACRC backers have raised questions about the appropriateness of her serving both clients. Though the council waived any conflict of interest concerns over Diamond’s double duty on April 6, Mendosa said during Thursday’s annual City Council budget-setting sessions that while Diamond could successfully handle both assignments, she “feels pressure from political or public perception to step down from that position.”
Mendosa will propose that City hire attorney Bob Black, former Crescent City city attorney, as counsel for recycling matters. Mendosa said Brown has “a lot of experience” in issues relevant to the solid waste processing dispute. “I’m in the process of retaining him,” Mendosa said.
Mendosa said legal assistance may be needed in formulating a new City recycling contract. He anticipated Black’s fees might fall within the $2,000 to $10,000 range.
Diamond adding associate
Mendosa also said that with multiple legal issues now facing the City, Diamond may hire an associate to handle less complex issues. He said she is a top-tier expert in municipal law, nut that “Not all the things she does requires her level of experience.”
The new associate would bill the City at a lower hourly rate. Freed from the relatuvely routine tasks, Diamond would then focus on more complex issues. Her rate would go up, but Mendosa said the goal would be to keep the City’s net legal expenditures the same as they are now.
The City’s proposed 2011-2012 budget includes $146,200 allocated for legal fees in Activity 9, the City Attorney. That figure does not include all of Arcata’s legal expenses, some of which are charged to specific funds within the budget.