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Littleton weighs options for legal services

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Contracting law firm, hiring another city attorney remain possibilities

By Ramsey Scott

Littleton is weighing options for rep lacing city attorney Kirsten Crawford, who resigned Feb. 1, citing personal reasons.

Earlier this month, the City Council heard a report from City Manager Michael Penny on the options for obtaining legal services. The city contracted with outside counsel for an analysis of its legal services and needs. 

The report said one option is to hire an outside law firm, as opposed to hiring a full-time city attorney. Penny told the council members they should bring in law firms for interviews. 

If they like what they hear, council members should pursue that option, he said; if not, the city can start the process of hiring a new city attorney.

Law firms interested in providing services have until Friday to submit proposals. Penny hopes the city can interview four or five candidates.

One reason an outside firm might prove advantageous, according to the report, is it might be difficult to find an attorney willing to take on a position seen as being in flux. 

Crawford had been the city’s top attorney for just a little over a year before she resigned. The council had fired the previous city attorney, Suzanne Staiert, in September 2011 after a little more than three years on the job.   

Crawford resigned several days after requesting and being granted administrative leave on Jan. 29. Penny said he couldn’t comment on whether the city’s re-evaluation of the position had anything to do with Crawford’s resignation. 

The council requested the analysis Jan. 29 as part of a larger push to find ways to operate more efficiently and effectively, Penny said. The city attorney’s office was one of several departments the council asked to be reviewed. 

The city’s budget for legal services in 2013 is $536,970. Yet Penny said more than just cost should be considered. He said it’s important to look ahead to the city’s most pressing issues and consider the need for expertise in development and zoning. 

The city has seen an increase in requests for zoning changes for new developments.  

“Ultimately, it’s what (type of expertise) do we need?” Penny asked. “A lot of it’s going to be around redevelopment and land issues.”

In the study, other city departments said they found having in-house legal counsel helped with problem solving and brainstorming on issues. While they were open to working with a contract attorney, some also worried about the accessibility of legal counsel that wasn’t in-house.