March 30, 2011 by wcobserver
West Fork- The West Fork City council was facing a packed agenda for the regular March meeting, but work was halted after a council member made a motion to suspend all work until the city hired a new attorney. By the meeting’s close ,an hour and a half later, the council had hired a new law firm with municipal law experience.
At the opening of the meeting, Council Member Rodney Drymon made a motion to suspend the agenda and the council unanimously agreed.
Mayor Frances Hime seemed surprised with the council’s decision to put city business on hold noting that there were several issues on the agenda that needed attention, including reading the ordinances that needed to be redone due to not being published. She also mentioned that the department heads were there to give their reports. At last month’s meeting Hime recommended that department heads need only be present quarterly with reports to be submitted monthly. At that meeting council members asked department heads to report in person at monthly meetings.
Hime also pointed out that the group could discuss a number of topics such as upcoming annexations and or the proposed fitness center. The council objected to conducting any business without a city attorney.
Rusty Hudson, the city’s attorney for 7 years, resigned on March 2. In his letter of resignation, he offered to attend the March 9 meeting. Council Member Charles Rossetti asked why former City Attorney Rusty Hudson was not present when he had offered to be there.
Rossetti said he was concerned that he and some others had not seen Hudson’s resignation letter. The mayor apologized, noting that her office is currently being gutted and treated for mold.
“Hudson recommended that we have someone research it [the city ordinances that were previously approved, but not published] and he was not going to research it and he had nothing to add to this situation,” said Hime, adding, “He resigned, if he has nothing to offer, he has no reason to be here.”
The mayor said she had contacted the Arkansas Municipal League about attorney recommendations. She said she’d be in contact with Danny Wright, the attorney who represents the cities of Greenland, Elkins and Johnson and Steven Parker, a corporate attorney.
Tom Kieklak and Justin Eichmann, representing the Springdale law firm Harrington, Miller, Kieklak, Eichmann, & Brown, arrived late to the council meeting, but made a presentation to the council about their firm and offered clarification on several issues common to all city councils. They also answered specific questions from the council about annexations and the ordinances.
Justin Eichmann spoke about another major issue for councils – governance which he compared to “staying in the lane you’re supposed to be in when driving.”
Council Member Joan Wright asked specifically if people looking into the proposed fitness/exercise center could act on the city’s behalf if they are not city residents. Eichmann answered, “The person looking into exercise space may advocate for the city as a volunteer, to research how this may be done for the city including helping in financing and donations and other sources of revenue. In fact volunteering is encouraged.”
The lawyers offered to work with an “at will” contract, allowing the mayor to hire or fire the attorney at will. Kieklak said their firm would charge a $250 flat rate fee for each city council meeting and an hourly rate of $150.
Council Member Anita Lowery said she was reluctant to hire the firm because this was the first group the council had looked at saying it seemed like buying the first car you see.
Charles Rossetti said he felt strongly about getting on with the business, “We have too much hanging over us. I feel comfortable [Harrington, Miller, Kieklak, Eichmann & Brown] will keep us in line legally.”
The roll call vote was unanimous to hire Harrington Miller Kieklak, Eichmann & Brown.
The meeting adjourned at 8:07 p.m. All council members were present.