LP opts for legal services contract over city attorney

November 8, 2017 GMT

La PORTE — City officials have signed a contract for legal services rather than hiring a salaried employee to fill the position of city attorney.

“Our firm represents 10 school corporations, all the public schools in La Porte County, so we’re familiar with working with governmental agencies,” said Nicholas Otis, an attorney with the law firm of Newby Lewis Kaminski Jones.

As point man, Otis will attend city meetings and provide legal services related to municipal government, as stipulated in the contract, but the firm’s full range of experience will be available, he said.

In addition to Otis, three of the 12 attorneys with the firm attended the meeting of the Board of Public Works and Safety, which approved the contract Monday.

“We look forward to working with the city,” Otis said.

Mayor Mark Krentz said Newby Lewis Kaminski Jones has a long history in La Porte and would provide solid legal representation.

“This is a good opportunity for the city,” he said.

Rebecca Meyer-McCuaig three weeks ago announced she was stepping down as city attorney to take a state job as chief counsel and director of solutions alongside former mayor Blair Milo, who left city hall in August to become the state’s first secretary of career connections and talent.

Although the decision to contract for legal services represents a change, Krentz said, the practice is not uncommon among Indiana cities, nor is it unprecedented in La Porte.

City governments in Valparaiso and Portage use contracts, according to Otis.

“I think we’re in good hands here,” Krentz said. “I like the idea that the firm was willing to do it.”

The understanding among all the parties was to try the arrangement to see how well it works, according to the mayor.

“The truth of the matter is that communication is considerably easier than it used to be without having people in the same building,” Krentz said.

The contract calls payment of $8,300 per month through November 2018. Additional legal services beyond those stipulated in the contract would be charged at the rate of $175 per hour.