Fairview Heights seeks new city attorney

News-DemocratJune 28, 2013 

— The mayor is searching for a new law firm to represent the city after the City Council voted not to retain its former firm.

"I'm getting different information on different firms and the council will make the choice. They will tell me who they want," said Mayor Gail Mitchell. "The council will have to make that decision, not me."

Earlier this month, the City Council voted not to renew the contract of city attorney Dawn Sallerson but she was reappointed by Mitchell and will work for the city until a new attorney can be found.

Mitchell said he hopes to have a firm selected by July 16 and present his selection to the council for a vote.

"Dawn is a good attorney," Mitchell said. "I have no problems with her but I don't have the support of the council."

Aldermen cited high legal fees as the reason for rejecting the renewal of the contract with Sallerson's firm, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. The city paid $375,354 in legal fees in 2011 and of that, $334,000 went to Hinshaw & Culbertson. The remainder went to the Lowenbaum Partnership. Sallerson was the city's attorney for three years and received a $2,400 retainer every month for general legal work. Any legal work required beyond the scope of the retainer was billed to the city at $185 an hour.

"It was our staff and people calling her, like code enforcement and things, and we kept putting it on her and putting it on her and the clock keeps rolling," Mitchell said. "I told them they can't keep doing that because every time they go to her, it costs the city."

The city attorney often reviews legislation that comes before the council, including ordinances and resolutions that require a binding, legal contract. The attorney is also paid to attend City Council meetings and represent the city in litigation.

Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at jschaaf@bnd.com or 618-239-2667.

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