LA CORUNA – In an attempt to clear up any confusion surrounding the county’s legal representation, the Shiawassee County Commissioners Council on Thursday approved an engagement letter with law firm Braun Kendrick for corporate attorney services.
The monthly deal, approved 6-1 Thursday with dissenting Commissioner Marlene Webster (R-District 1), does not include a monthly fee. Instead, the county will only pay for the number of hours lawyers actually work, at a rate of $ 170 per hour for lawyers and between $ 75 and $ 150 per hour for paralegals and paralegals.
The updated agreement aims to remove any confusion over legal representation for the county following the abrupt resignation of lawyer Ryan Painter on August 6.
“A question has been raised among some county staff / elected officials that they need the services of our lawyer and are concerned about whether (Braun Kendrick) is really our lawyer,” said Chairman of the Board Greg Brodeur (R-District 2). explained at the Finance and Administration Committee meeting on Monday. “We had to consolidate this so that no one was afraid to resort to the lawyer.
“It is my hope and intention, with the support of course from my fellow Commission members, that over the next few months we will put our legal services back to tender as part of a very open process. », Continued Brodeur. “In the meantime, we won’t be paying any more fees, we’ll just pay an hourly rate for how we (often) use (Braun Kendrick’s) services.”
County officials drew widespread criticism in August when it became known that Painter’s service contract had been awarded to Braun Kendrick in February without board approval. Painter resigned on August 6, citing a recent death in the family, with Braun Kendrick’s attorney Eric Morris stepping in to represent the county going forward.
County coordinator Brian Boggs strongly defended the deal’s cession at a council meeting in August, explaining that Painter briefed council on his transition to Braun Kendrick at a public meeting earlier this year , presenting the amended service agreement to the board. The decision not to submit the deal to the board for a vote, according to Boggs, was “under (Painter’s) leadership.”
The painter’s prior agreement provided for a provision of 50 hours per month at $ 170 per hour – about $ 102,000 per year – and $ 200 per hour for work over 50 hours. He was hired as an individual lawyer to represent the county in local matters in November 2020.
Boggs said the deal approved Thursday is “not a long-term solution” and that any time the commissioners are ready to bid, they can change the deal.
Commissioners on Thursday also rejected, 5-2, a request for an additional item to be placed on the board’s meeting agenda which, if approved, would grant the county election commission access to Morris.
The Election Commission, made up of Estates Judge Thomas Dignan, Treasurer Julie Sorenson and Clerk Caroline Wilson, sought advice and / or direction from Morris on the ongoing recall effort against Commissioners Jeremy Root, R- District 5, Cindy Garber, R-District 6, and John Plowman, R-District 7.
Dignan, Wilson and Sorenson voted unanimously on September 7 to approve the wording of the recall petition against Root, Garber and Plowman, deeming it to be clear and factual.
The three commissioners concerned have appealed the wording of the recall petition, with 35th Circuit Court judge Matthew Stewart this week issuing a case management information order requesting additional information from the parties.
The pressure to topple the three commissioners came after a July 15 meeting in which the commissioners voted to give themselves and other county elected officials COVID-19 risk premiums using federal relief funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Much of the $ 557,000 that was disbursed went to commissioners and other elected officials. Root received $ 25,000; Plowman and Commissioner Brandon Marks, R-District 4, each received $ 10,000, and the other Commissioners – Garber, Webster, Brodeur and Gary Holzhausen, R-District 3 – each received $ 5,000.
Wilson, acknowledging that Morris provided legal advice to the Election Commission for its clarity / factual hearing on September 7, contacted the attorney on behalf of the commission for further advice following Stewart’s order. Morris said he would need council approval before proceeding.
The request was not made on Thursday’s agenda, prompting Wilson to voice his frustrations during the public comments.
“I want to make it very clear that this is not a personal thing,” Wilson said. “The voters have taken action, appropriate action, in what they believe is the representation of this county. I can not help it. I was elected to do a job. I do my job. It’s a very bad position I’m in. I have to work with you regularly. I have been abused in the past; I have no hard feelings. I advance; I m a professional.
“We have one thing and now we’re being told no,” she continued. “I just informed (the lawyer) who was also involved in this process. … But the fact that five of you are saying “No” sounds bad and again, probably confirms what’s going on. It’s frustrating.”
A decision by Stewart on the appeals is expected within 40 days of the appeal being filed.
The earliest a recall election could take place in May 2022. All commissioners are candidates for election in November 2022.