The city of Hutto is mulling options for in-house legal services, with Hutto City Council unanimously directing city staff at its Feb. 6 meeting to engage in professional recruiting for a city attorney and additional paralegals for its own legal team.
Per the language of the motion, council directed staff to draft a request for proposal, or RFP, from legal firms to receive bid considerations for legal services, as well as to advertise interest in hiring an in-house city attorney. Information included in the RFP will outline a proposed range for city attorney salaries and prospective candidates' level of experience in municipal government.
Interim City Manager Charles Daniels and Assistant to the City Manager Stacy Schmitt presented before council at a Feb. 6 meeting and said the objective of the in-house services is to help alleviate the influx of public information access requests directed toward the city secretary's office. Daniels said that out of the four major cities he has worked in throughout Texas, each of them have in-house city attorneys and pointed to surrounding cities, such as Georgetown, that follow similar practices.
The city currently employs McGinnis Lochridge—a firm that will also be considered in the RFP—for city attorney services. In a presentation presented by Daniels and Schmitt to council, the city has spent approximately $3.4 million in legal services over the past three years.
Council is expected to revisit the RFP draft created by city staff at a future council meeting.
In a separate agenda item, council unanimously approved a motion related to the city's litigation with the Texas Attorney General's office, directing city staff to release and post onto the city's website all severance and separation agreements from Jan. 1, 2017 onward; to release fee bills, beginning in 2017, for city attorneys and to redact any information as deemed fit by the attorney general's office in a "good faith" and timely manner; and for council to receive a status update in one month on any outstanding lawsuits the city has.