Council considers new contract for City attorney
The West Linn City Council began discussing a revised contract with City Attorney Tim Ramis and his associates at the Jordan Ramis firm at a work session July 15.
The discussion was cut short, however, as the council had spent more time than was planned for on other agenda items. The contract will be brought back up at the July 22 meeting and possibly approved Aug. 5.
The council decided on a new structure for the City's legal services early in June and launched into contract negotiations with the Jordan Ramis Firm so that the new contract could reflect those changes.
Ramis pointed out at the meeting a couple of key changes in the proposed contract from the one he currently operates under besides the new rate of pay.
"It makes it explicit that the city council, under the charter, has the authority to make the appointment of city attorney," Ramis said.
The council having authority over legal advisors rather than the city manager was a prominent part of the new legal services structure that the council decided on in June.
Ramis also mentioned that the proposed contract includes mention of "a person to provide risk management services," and makes clear that that person is provided by the office of the city attorney, which was another key part of the revised legal services structure approved in June.
The new contract proposes incremental raises in the pay rates of legal advisors to the City for the next two and a half years.
For the rest of 2019, lawyers would be paid $265 an hour and paralegals $195 an hour. In 2020, the City would pay $305 an hour for lawyers and $205 an hour for paralegals. In 2021, hourly rates would raise to $345 for lawyers and $215 for paralegals.
The most recent City contract with the Jordan Ramis firm, which was adopted in 2015, spelled out incremental raises as well, specifying a rate through 2017, when City would pay $225 an hour for lawyers and $185 an hour for paralegals.
At Monday's work session, the council also again discussed a ballot measure altering language in the city charter to solidify the revised legal services structure, which revokes all power of the city manager over attorneys and other legal advisors to the City.
Ramis proposed two versions of the ballot measure, one which altered section 8 of the city charter, establishing council authority over City legal services. The second also altered section 23, which concerns the City Manager, adding that "the City Manager shall have no control over the office of the City Attorney."
Since the discussions of a charter amendment began, Councilor Jules Walters has opposed the idea.
"The changes that we voted on for legal structure don't need a charter amendment. The people have voted on this twice already. This is a redundant ballot measure," she argued Monday night. "I have yet to have anybody from the city come up to me and say, 'I wish you would put that legal services to me again for a vote because I need more clarity.'"
Councilor Richard Sakelik countered Walters, saying although she might not have heard from citizens asking for a charter amendment, he has.
Walters also opposes the idea because of the high price the City may have to pay to put it on the November ballot.
At a previous meeting, City Manager Eileen Stein advised the council that because 2019 is an odd year, the City would have to pay to put the measure on the ballot, where as if it waited until 2020, there would be no charge. The cost for the measure could be at least $10,000 she said.
Ballot measures concerning this same issue have gone before the voters twice before in the last 10 years. In 2013, citizens passed a measure altering the legal services language in the city charter to allow a city attorney to report to the city manager.
In 2017, some council members were against the charter's new language, which they thought gave city staff too much authority over the City's legal services. They drafted another measure to change the language again, an effort which was ultimately turned down by voters.
Sakelik and Council President Teri Cummings want the proposed charter language stronger than what was proposed on the 2017 ballot, which they did not support because it gave the city manager some authority over legal services.
The council will choose a version of the ballot measure to approve at its next meeting on July 22.
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