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Council interviews attorneys

The Crosslake City Council held a public meeting Jan. 18 where it interviewed three candidates for city attorney.

Brad Person of Breen and Person, Robert Scott of Flaherty and Hood, and Lonny Thomas of Thomas Law all made presentations and answered council meeting questions.

Common questions included familiarity with shoreline laws, how the firm will communicate with the city and availability to attend meetings.

Familiarity with shoreline rules and regulations and other aspects of planning and zoning were perhaps the most prevalent questions the council asked attorneys.

Rates and profiles for the firms varied. Thomas has offices in both Crosslake and Baxter. His letter to the council listed that he works with one other attorney and two paralegals. Were he to become Crosslake’s attorney, Crosslake would be the only municipality he represents. He bills at $215 an hour, and said he prices himself at the top of the local market, remarking that when clients are offered discounts, they often don’t receive the attorney’s priority.

Scott’s letter to the council listed that his general municipal services would be billed at $110 an hour, though other services had higher prices. Scott’s firm, Flaherty and Hood, is a large firm that began as a lobbying firm and represents many cities in greater Minnesota.

Person has a Crosslake office and represents both Pillager and Baxter. He bills at $125 an hour, which is a discount from his non-municipal clients, which are billed at $200 an hour.

The Lake Country Echo reported in December that Person met with the mayor, council members and two council members-elect. Person is not an approved city attorney.

This raised questions at the December council meeting over the Open Meeting Law.

Council member Steve Roe addressed the issue during Person’s interview. Roe asked for Person’s interpretation of the Open Meeting Law, requesting that he give examples of violations.

Person named the standard violation of the Open Meeting Law, when elected officials meet in groups without public notice to talk about public business.

“If you’re referring to the article in the paper, I disagree pretty completely,” Person said.

The council did not select an attorney at the Jan. 18 meeting, but chose to wait and give council members time to think about the interviews.