Fairview Heights tables attorney appointment

News-DemocratJuly 16, 2013 

The Fairview Heights City Council voted to table the mayor's appointment of a new city attorney Tuesday night after several aldermen opposed appointing a new attorney without approving a contract first.

Mayor Gail Mitchell was expected to appoint attorney Kevin Hoerner of the law firm of Becker, Paulson, Hoerner and Thompson P.C. but several alderman objected.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Pat Baeske moved to table the appointment until the finance committee had the chance to review and discuss a contract.

Baeske said she reviewed an agreement that had not been approved by the city council and discovered the contract with the new attorney may ultimately cost the city more than the contract the city had with the law firm of Hinshaw and Culbertson.

The city paid $375,354 in legal fees in 2011 and of that, $334,000 went to Hinshaw and 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.

In June the city council voted not to retain its former law firm and not renew its contract with city attorney Dawn Sallerson, citing high legal fees as the reason for rejecting the renewal of the contract with Sallerson's firm, Hinshaw and Culbertson LLP.

"There's no cap, there's a huge amount of work that Hinshaw covers in the contract but Hoerner's does not cover," she said. "We shouldn't be making an appointment before we have a contract, we just shouldn't because it leaves it wide open for anything."

Ward 4 Alderwoman Carol Warner agreed.

"We should be voting on a contract before we vote on the appointment," Warner said. "None of this has been ironed out. We've not even had the chance to discuss this contract at all and I think it needs discussion before and appointment is made."

Mitchell said appointing an attorney before approving a contract was "perfectly legal."

"What's in the best interest of the city?" Warner said. "That's the question here. What is in the best interest of the city?"

"To save the city money, Carol," Mitchell answered.

"I sure hope so, but, we need a contract," Warner replied.

Ward a Alderman Joshua Frawley, Ward 1 Alderman Dennis Baricevic, Ward 3 Alderman Scott Greenwald and Ward 4 Alderwoman Linda Arnold all voted against tabling the appointment.

The council voted to approve spending $24,500 on improvements on South Ruby Lane and $28,500 on improvements on Kassing Avenue.

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