The Salida City Council began looking into the hiring of an Interim City Attorney at the regular council meeting of Tuesday, December 5, 2017 to tend to the legal needs of the city until a permanent city attorney was hired. The then current city attorney, Benjamin Kahn, had tendered his thirty day notice of resignation on November 21, 2017. Council reevaluated the terms of employment for the next city attorney in view of control and cost issues that arose with the City Attorney Kahn. (See City Attorney Kahn.)
The Salida City Council approved a Letter of Engagement employing Geoff Wilson of the firm of Murray Dahl Kuechenmeister & Renaud LLP as the City’s Interim City Attorney at a Special Meeting of Council on December 11, 2017. (See 5/21/19 Council meeting packet, pp. 66-72.) Wilson had previously served for 27 years as General Counsel for the Colorado Municipal League, and is one of the most experienced municipal lawyers in the state of Colorado. He has been recognized for his commitment to open and transparent government. (See AVV 5/13/18.) His predecessor, Ben Kahn, was hired in March of 2016 having no prior municipal law experience.
The appointment of Geoff Wilson was made permanent at the council meeting of November 6, 2018 (see minutes at Packet, pp. 4-7), citing his year of exemplary service and the costs of his services, that were about half those of his predecessor. (See AVV, 11/8/18https://www.onesalida.org/wilson-attorney-bills/. See also Wilson Attorney Bills and Kahn Attorney Bills.)
The Letter of Engagement under which Wilson was hired by Council replaced the controversial Scope of Work drafted by the former City Attorney Ben Kahn, which the present Council has since repealed. (See AVV 5/27/19 and Packet of 5/21/2019 Council Meeting, pp. 68-77.)
Councilman Dan Shore cited the progress made by the City in response to citizen concerns heard while campaigning in 2017 of how much the City was paying in terms of attorneys’ fees. (See YouTube video of 7/2/2019 Council Meeting at 38:18 to 40:22.) He noted that, for the calendar year 2017, total attorney payments were $468,400, of which $348,682 was paid to the previous city attorney, with the remainder of about $120,000 paid to outside legal firms. By contrast, in 2018, the total legal fees of the City were $208,625, with the current city attorneys’ total billing for the year being $141,647. The significant savings in outsource costs were because the current city attorneys’ firm had so much municipal law experience and resources that they didn’t have to outsource nearly as much, having the capabilities in-house.to do land use planning, personnel issues. He said council heard the public loud and clear and is making a lot of progress on that front, and will continue to be really vigilant in this regard.