The town of Longboat Key won’t create an in-house attorney position at Town Hall.
At its Tuesday, Jan. 22, regular workshop, six of the seven Longboat Key town commissioners agreed the town needs to seek the services of another contract attorney to replace longtime town attorney David Persson.
Town Manager Dave Bullock asked the commission to make a decision first on what kind of attorney it wants before it selects its first new attorney in 23 years.
Persson will stay on in his capacity as town attorney no later than June 30, giving Bullock and the commission time to interview replacement candidates.
“Contract attorneys offer a wider range of services,” Bullock said. “Generally, the smaller the community, the more likely they are to contract for an attorney’s services.”
Commissioner Lynn Larson suggested the town create a new hybrid-type of legal services department, which could create an in-house attorney responsible for delegating the use of other legal services when needed.
But the rest of the commission believed the suggestion could cost the town more money in the long run.
“On the surface, an in-house attorney sounds appealing to cut down on costs and get a more rapid response,” commented Commissioner Phill Younger. “But you’d have to hire a legal secretary, too. It would cost around $170,000 for an attorney and $68,000 for a legal secretary. Then you still contract out for a lot of other services.”
Commissioners suggested spending an annual salary for an attorney to delegate certain services wasn’t practical.
“I don’t think we need a general practitioner on the payroll to tell us when to see a specialist,” Younger said.
Commissioner Terry Gans also suggested that an attorney with a salary the town could afford may not bring the type of expertise the town wants.
Bullock told commissioners he would report back to the commission at its Feb. 4 regular meeting. That gives commissioners time to review a request for proposal for a new attorney. Commissioners will also review and modify a list of duties it expects from its new attorney.
Persson, meanwhile, submitted his name to become the next city manager for the city of Venice and is one of five attorney finalists the city was considering Tuesday afternoon.
Town Attorney Duties
The town of Longboat Key’s charter says the town attorney shall:
• Serve as legal adviser to the town, the Town Commission and all of the governmental and proprietary functions of the town and its departments, divisions, officers, boards and committees.
• Prepare and review all proposed ordinances and resolutions of the town.
• Prosecute and defend all legal actions wherein the town is a party in interest.
• Perform such other legal services as the Town Commission or town manager requests.