City opts for in-house attorney

October 29, 2013 • Local News

The city will start searching to hire a city attorney, possibly this week, following a council decision last week to stop paying for outside legal counsel, Mayor Del Jurney said Monday.

City councilors held a special meeting Thursday to decide if the city should [auth] continue contracting with attorney Barbara Patterson or hire an in-house lawyer.

“There was a very positive discussion about the pros and cons of each philosophical direction,” Jurney said. “There are certainly advantages and disadvantages on each.”

Councilors Steve Henderson, Art Sandoval and Jason Perry voted to continue operating with outside legal services.

The council decided in September to temporarily extend outside attorney Barbara Patterson’s contract for legal services until Dec. 31.

The contract calls for paying her firm $12,784.92 per month, plus incidentals.

The board held a workshop later that month and invited Mike Stone, in-house attorney for the City of Hobbs, to share his expertise and background knowledge with them.

Roswell is currently paying $240,000 a year for outside legal services, according to City Manager Larry Fry.

Stone’s department’s entire budget is $450,000 to $500,000, he said. His salary is $125,000 plus benefits, and he works with an assistant city attorney. Another attorney was just hired, he said.

Hobbs is a city of some 45,000 residents, compared to Roswell’s 48,000, and with 450 city employees. The City of Roswell employs some 600.

One advantage to Stone’s position, is that he is able to also act as the assistant city manager, he told Roswell city councilors in September.

But, it would be difficult to find a quality city attorney, Stone said.

“We did talk about that,” Jurney said Monday. “Another thing Stone discussed, was that communities were budgeting more for attorneys than Roswell’s budget.”

Councilors considered many factors during their discussion when deciding which direction they thought was best, Jurney said.

“I thought the overall discussion was very positive,” Jurney said. “I think the council took the responsibility of making that decision to heart.”

The city’s intent is to have a new attorney hired by Jan. 1. If not, councilors can decide whether to continue Patterson’s contract, Jurney said.

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