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City attorney under scrutiny from board
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McMinnville officials have broken a policy regarding meetings. A last-minute addition to Tuesday’s regular session of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen could spell trouble for city attorney Tim Pirtle.
A joint meeting of the Finance Committee and Water and Sewer Committee was recently added to the agenda to be held “immediately following the regular session” to “discuss legal services.”
Making the change violates a policy by the board that requires the agenda be made at least two weeks before the meeting. The agenda for Tuesday, March 12 was sent out during the final week in February, with the addition allowed on March 6 by Mayor Jimmy Haley.
Speculation is officials are concerned with the recent rise in the cost of legal services, as well as the services being provided. Pirtle was hired by the city in October 2010 at an hourly rate of $250.
During an orientation session in December, Pirtle informed city board members that, not counting attendance at meetings, the clock starts on his services when he begins a task assigned to him by city administrator David Rutherford or a board member.
Since early November, Pirtle has attended numerous lengthy meetings. Also, board members have requested him to look into, among things, how they can legally allow Park Theatre Group to manage Park Theatre, the competitive bidding process, if the law was broken in renewing the city administrator’s contract, protocol in calling committee meetings, and the board’s options on linking aldermen salary to attendance.
In early February, aldermen asked Pirtle for his legal opinion on the purchase of a higher priced local vehicle over a lower priced vehicle from an out-of-town dealer. One alderman asked for the legal definition between “lowest and best.”
On Feb. 26, Pirtle reported to the board his written legal finding based on his research of case law, reviewing the state’s fair bidding requirements, reviewing the city’s invitation for bids, and the dealership bids received. He also discussed the situation with the county’s legal counsel, after he was asked to look into the county’s purchase of its vehicles.
The meeting to “discuss legal services” comes less than two weeks after Pirtle rendered his legal findings that officials could not justify spending more money to purchase a vehicle locally and that the definition of “lowest and best” on the measure was the lowest price.
Members of the Finance Committee are Ken Smith, Ben Newman, and Mike Neal. Members of the Water and Sewer Committee are Billy Wood, Jimmy Bonner and Smith.
Those two committees represent a majority of the board, which would be required to end the city’s contract with Pirtle.
Pirtle submits a monthly itemized list of his services to the city for payment. Those records are unavailable at this time.