by ANDY SEVILLA
Kyle could have a full-time city attorney on staff come the new year.
City Manager Lanny Lambert said Kyle has had contract attorneys since the city’s birth, but due to a population boom in the last decade, he said the city now is large enough to “justify the cost associated with a full-time city attorney.”
Lambert received council blessing on his search last week.
“Our daily legal questions have reached a tipping point. We are no longer saving money by having contract attorneys,” Mayor Lucy Johnson said in support of hiring a city attorney.
“I believe an in-house attorney can do 90 to 95 percent of our work,” Lambert said. “We’ll still have to contract our lawsuits, special projects… we’ll still need specialists in water law. But, I think 95 percent of the work we can do in-house, and it will be faster and more accurate.”
Frank Garza, of the law offices of Davidson, Troilo, Ream, & Garza, is the city’s contract attorney since June 1, 2011. His law office’s website states that Garza also serves as city attorney for Balcones Heights, Bulverde, Poteet, Sabinal, Terrell Hills and Karnes City. Garza serves as general counsel to the Brooke Development Authority, City of San Antonio Civil Service Commission, and San Antonio’s Police and Fire Civil Service Commission, and he also provides legal guidance to the cities of Tyler, Laredo, Leon Valley and Pearsall.
Lambert has budgeted $140,000 this year for contract attorneys, but he said he believes the city can attain a full-time city attorney, with benefits, for less than that.
The city put out an advertisement this week looking for a city attorney with a starting salary between $75,000 to $85,000 plus an “outstanding benefits package.”
The city is requiring a four-year college degree and a doctorate in jurisprudence. Candidates are also asked to have experience with Texas law involving municipal law and the Texas Local Government Code with a minimum of five years experience to include a Civil Service and Meet and Confer background.
Lambert said he doesn’t expect to save much money with the new-hire because contracting attorneys will still be necessary for special projects, lawsuits, and water issues, among other things, but the needs of city are calling for an attorney on city staff.
“What we are able to get with our contract employees, is a wide range of expertise that we could never get from an individual lawyer,” Lambert said. “However, what I have found is that we have so many legal issues arise on a daily basis… and what we’re finding is, it’s difficult, time consuming and expensive to call our contract lawyers for answers.”
Johnson said that using contract attorneys outside of the city attorney is not unusual, and in fact, the city has a separate water attorney, presently dealing with issues such as the Save Our Springs Alliance lawsuit against the city.
Lambert thinks the city can attract a junior attorney from Austin, San Antonio, or a variety of places to hire as the in-house attorney. He said his main demand is city experience.
“Municipal law is a special field – just like finance law, just like water law, just like criminal law – I want somebody that knows what they’re doing and has done it before,” he said.