City council narrows search for attorney

Tim Sralla of Taylor Olson

Robert Brown of Brown & Hofmeister

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

 

City Attorney Andrew Lucas likely will be elected Somervell County Attorney on Tuesday night – he’s running unopposed. That means the City of Glen Rose must find new legal representation, and on Monday evening the Glen Rose City Council began narrowing the search.

Two law firms made presentations to the council, which met a week earlier than its usual schedule on the second Monday of each month because Veterans Day will be observed next Monday.

Robert Brown, a founding partner of Brown & Hofmeister in Richardson, told the council his firm’s principals have been working together for 25 years and currently represent the cities of McKinney, Flower Mound, Runaway Bay, Kemp and others. Brown also is the city attorney of Keene east of Cleburne and would act as the city attorney of Glen Rose if the council chooses his firm.

He pledged that he and his firm’s associate lawyers would be available to the council “24/7” by phone, email, Skype, video conferencing and the Internet. He also said he would be available Monday evenings to attend council meetings in person for a flat fee.

“We pride ourselves on accessibility,” Brown said, adding that all lawyers in his firm have smart phones and computers and can respond to questions around-the-clock.

The firm bills in six-minute increments, he added, and would work with the city to keep its billings as low as possible.

“We understand the financial pressure” cities face and would use efficiency to make the city gets “the most bang for the buck.”

Brown’s areas of concentration are municipal law, constitutional law, civil rights, zoning and land use matters, and litigation and appellate work. He has argued cases before the Texas Supreme Court on behalf of Texas cities.

Wayne Olson, a founding partner of Taylor Olson Adkins Sralla & Elam in Fort Worth, told the council his firm employs 20 lawyers and represents more than 30 cities, including Haltom City, Kennedale, Lake Worth (where City Administrator Ken West most recently worked as assistant city manager), Euless and others.

“I have learned over the years that the law is not black and white, it’s very gray,” Olson said. “Luckily, I’ve got some very good people working with me.”

Founding partner Tim Sralla would be the Glen Rose city attorney if the council chooses his law firm as its legal representative.

Sralla said he has represented cities in real estate cases, drafted ordinances and helped cities in their day-to-day operations. He has practiced in Fort Worth since 1983, focusing on municipal law and appellate advocacy, and currently is city attorney to the cities of Southlake and Richland Hills.

In discussing which law firm to choose, council members said they were especially concerned about costs, including travel expenses.

Taylor Olson would bill at the rate of $205 an hour. Thus, the cost to travel from Fort Worth to Glen Rose for a one-hour council meeting would cost about $615. Also, the firm bills in 15-minute increments.

Whichever firm the council chooses, it also would represent the city in issues before the municipal court.

The council discussion indicated members were learning toward Brown & Hofmeister because of its flat-rate price and willingness to use teleconferencing and other methods to save the city money.

Sralla urged the council to keep in mind that his firm is closer to Glen Rose, thus keeping travel costs lower.

Olson also said that he realized that because lawyers bill by the hour, “that can add up quickly.” Partners charge higher rates, so if questions can be addressed without traveling to Glen Rose or handled by associates – junior lawyers – the firm would work with the city to keep a lid on costs, he added.

Councilman Dennis Moore pointed out that Lucas has been close by and available to answer questions before council meetings.

Sralla also vowed to be accessible.

“I answer telephone calls from my clients every single day,” he said. “I rarely miss a call.
After the presentations had been made and the lawyers left, Lucas said he didn’t think the council “could go wrong either way.”

Because the next city attorney also will work with the municipal court, he suggested that the court cut back from meeting several times a month to meeting six to eight times a year and putting more cases on its docket.

A third law firm indicated its interest in representing the city, but no one from the firm came to speak to the council Monday night because its lawyers were tied up in meetings with other cities.

The council voted to table a decision until the next meeting in December. If elected county attorney as expected, Lucas would take his oath of office on Jan. 1.

In other action, the council approved transferring $15,000 out of the sewer capital improvement fund to the general fund to pay the city’s share of a joint city-county economic development director position to the added to Glen Rose Convention & Visitor Bureau Director Billy Huckaby’s job. The council approved the additional responsibilities at its meeting last month.

The council also postponed a decision on whether to grant the Hollywood & Vine restaurant a five-year easement agreement. The restaurant’s parking and loading area and its trademark sign are located on or across a city easement.

Moore said he wanted to make sure documentation is attached to the agreement showing that the restaurant has liability insurance coverage. The agreement also will include a variance for the trademark “Hollywood” sign.

Moore said he was uncomfortable extending the agreement for five years, so council members decided to go with three years, plus a three-year option.

Restaurant owner Dobber Stephenson assured the council the documentation would be attached to the agreement. The council plans to take action on the measure at next month’s meeting.

 

 

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