Monday, November 20, 2017 Elyria 30°


Elyria sets parameters for attorney, law firm


ELYRIA — Attorney Kenneth Stumphauzer will attend city meetings, research legal opinions for Mayor Holly Brinda and prepare contracts as the mayor’s administrative legal counsel.

His law firm, Walter Haverfield, will serve as special counsel to the city handling labor negotiations and labor relations matters, but it cannot bill for Stumphauzer’s time because all of the legal work he performs will be done in his capacity as administrative legal counsel.

It’s a clear-cut separation of responsibilities sought by City Council members after learning in previous years Stumphauzer worked for the mayor as well as for the city through his former law firm.

From 2011 to 2013, when Stumphauzer was partner and director of Stumphauzer O’Toole, the firm made $72,871 working for the city, with the bulk coming in 2013. During that time, several attorneys with the firm, including Stumphauzer, submitted invoices with hundreds of hours of billable time.

However, a new professional services agreement spells out how the dual relationship will work so Brinda can keep both Stumphauzer and Walter Haverfield, the new firm he joined toward the end of 2013. It aims to prevent the same double billing from occurring in the future.

Members of the City Council Finance Committee approved the contract Monday.

Law Director Scott Serazin said the new contract is different than the one Brinda submitted last month when it was learned the firm was working without a contract, which Serazin brought to light.

“This contract answers most of my concerns with the arrangement,” he said. “I support it. It could serve as a model for future special counsel agreements.”

The revelation Brinda outsourced much legal work to Stumphauzer’s firm, only to see him receive a salary from the city as well as bill the city for additional hours he worked through his law firm, left many Council members to question the exact the role of the administrative legal counsel. The contract takes away the guesswork.

Per the contract, here’s what the Stumphauzer’s city-paid job entails:

  • Attend regular and/or special Planning Commission meetings
  • Attend regular and/or special Board of Zoning Appeals meetings
  • Attend regular and/or special Board of Building Standards Appeals meetings
  • Attend regular and/or special Landmarks Preservation Commission meetings
  • Attend regular and/or special Civil Service Commission meetings
  • Research and draft legal memoranda and opinions as requested by the mayor
  • Provide legal advice to city officials, except those represented by the law director
  • Respond to inquiries regarding city matters
  • Attend meetings and discussions with city, county, state and federal officials and other governmental officials as directed by the mayor
  • Prepare contracts and other legal documents as directed by the mayor
  • Represent the mayor and all other officers, departments, divisions, bureaus, boards and commissions of the city, except the Council, clerk of Council, law director, finance director and Civil Service Commission, in court or before any administrative board or body.

The job pays $3,500 a month.

As for the work Walter Haverfield can do for the city, it is capped at $125,000 for the year unless Council authorizes additional payments. The firm can bill at $250 per hour for attorneys and $75 per hour for paralegals and law clerks.

“I’m not saying Walter Haverfield is not a good law firm that is capable of doing the negotiating work we need done, but we have to be honest that the only reason we are looking to them is because of Mr. Stumphauzer,” said Councilman Mark Craig, I-4th Ward. “I’m comfortable with the contract, but uncomfortable with the policy of hiring this firm.”

Steve Byron, head of Walter Haverfield’s public law practice, said the issue of cities hiring related attorneys and law firms is complicated. Ohio law makes a clear exception for lawyers and legal firms, paving the way for the kind of working relationship the city is seeking, he said.

“This contract dots all of the I’s and crosses all of the T’s to get us under state code and the city’s charter,” he said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.


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