By Jane Smith
City commissioners chose the Lohman Law Group of Jupiter to act as city attorney in a public process required by the way they solicited bids.
In a presentation Oct. 18 before the selection, R. Max Lohman said he would be the Delray Beach city attorney if his firm were chosen. His backup would be Bradley Biggs and then Abigail Jorandby. He promised to retain the three assistant city attorneys and paralegal already working for Delray Beach, creating a hybrid department.
Lohman offered two options. One was no retainer, general legal work billed at $210 per hour and litigation work billed at $250 an hour.
The second option was a $25,000 monthly retainer, which translates into an annual retainer of $300,000. Once the retainer is exhausted, then the hourly billing would start.
The commission approved an hourly rate for 3 1/2 months at its Nov. 1 meeting. In late February, Lohman will give the commission his assessment of the City Attorney’s office and the commission will discuss his fees.
Commissioner Jordana Jarjura said the estimated total cost of the city attorney and deputy to be about $327,000 for salaries and benefits. Although she favors an in-house attorney, she voted on Oct. 18 to negotiate with Lohman.
Other bidders were GrayRobinson of Fort Lauderdale, with its $350,000 bid for general legal work, Greenspoon Marder of Fort Lauderdale, with its $420,000 bid if it staffed the entire city attorney’s office, and Nason Yeager of Boca Raton, which offered a flat fee of $256,000 annually, similar to what it charged Port St. Lucie, for meetings and workshops.
Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein said the full-service city would be “best served by in-house counsel. ... Lohman was closer to what I’d like to see in a strong city attorney.”
But he added that Palm Beach Gardens, which the Lohman firm represents, is different from Delray Beach: It’s newer and not a coastal city. The newer construction means no significant historical preservation issues, he said.
The previous city attorney, Noel Pfeffer, left in June to take a partner position at Conrad & Scherer in Fort Lauderdale.
The City Commission held the public hearing after it was told by the county’s ethics commission it could not meet individually with candidates for the city attorney.
Interim City Attorney Janice Rustin sought the opinion in September because Delray Beach had solicited competitive bids for its legal services.
The cone of silence provision applies, according to the ethics commission. “Any oral communication between any city commissioner and any person seeking the award of the legal services contract that occurs outside of a public meeting is prohibited,” wrote Mark E. Bannon, executive director of the commission.
“When the cone of silence is not in effect, the [ethics] code does not prohibit the city commission from meeting individually with any applicant.”
In other ethics commission action:
Delray Beach firefighter/paramedic Conor Devery was given a letter of instruction on the county code of ethics and city policies that prohibit a public employee from working for an outside company that supplies the employee’s department.
The ethics commission found probable cause of a violation but decided the violation was “inadvertent, unintentional, or unsubstantial.” Devery allowed a company in which he was part-owner to provide the city fire department with $2,245 worth of goods and services between 2012 and 2014.
By Jane Smith