By Bingqing Mao
The Meridian Times
In a heated meeting, the Township Board unanimously voted to find a new legal service.
Township Manager Frank Walsh asked for direction from the board in finding a replacement for the Hubbard Law Firm in providing legal services.
The manager suggested that the Meridian Township board name three board members to a committee to interview firms in March.
Five board members were very interested in this topic at the Feb. 17 meeting and argued with each other.
Trustee John R. Veenstra said that the township paid Hubbard $10,000 per month for an annualized contract of $120,000 per year, plus expenses and monthly billing overage, which was much more than hiring an attorney. He said that if the township had one general attorney, it could save money under legal expenses.
“It was a good opportunity to totally review township’s legal counsel situation and I questioned whether we really needed to have five different law firms to represent the township,” Veenstra said.
The township has a general law firm as a legal counsel, then it has second law firm as its contract prosecutor, and it has third law firm using for labor matters and so on.
Treasurer Julie Brixie said she did not believe a single in-house attorney could offer all the skills. She said that because of the size of the organization, they need lawyers to handle those very complex issues.
“I don’t think it is a good idea, because right now we have two different attorneys from the same firm, they actually come to the township two days a week. I am the treasurer, I could only work with one of them, the other one didn’t know anything about bankruptcies, and he couldn’t do the legal advice that the treasurer’s office needs,” Brixie said. “They didn’t all have expertise. There is only one attorney at the firm that has the expertise that I needed.”
As an example, she said Lansing had in-house attorneys but also hired specialized law firms
Clerk Brett Dreyfus said he did not think the attorney needs to have all the skills. He said that if the township had some problems, it could hire specialists at that time and pay them with the money saved. As a result, the township would not have to raise taxes.
He suggested having a full board meeting about township legal services, because it was very important for the direction of the township. He thought the key was to ask the right questions so that they had good data to work with. As they asked the right questions about what they needed, they could get comparisons with other communities.
Trustee Milton L. Scales’ statement gained more acceptance. He added some words to the primary motion, which became a motion to direct the township manager to seek proposals for legal services, after reviewing our legal needs in conjunction with the township board.
This motion passed unanimously.