It is obvious that many local residents, voters and taxpayers are concerned with the “sleight of hand-ling,” approach to deciding on a new City Attorney. That’s why many of you will be anxious to see how City Council handles the selection process tomorrow at 1 p.m.
While the City’s situation is unique, looking for two out of three Charter officers at the same time, added pressure exists because the interim City Attorney will be leaving in two weeks. The process has been handled as well as can be expected under the circumstances.
The City hired Colin Baenziger & Associates, an executive search firm that specializes in finding, qualifying and recommending candidates for important municipal government positions. Based on their research, the firm we hired has recommended to City Council six strong candidates for the City Attorney position. In his letter of recommendation, Colin Baenziger states, “We believe all the candidates are very strong and that any one of them would do an excellent job for Vero Beach.”
The six candidates are all, well, people, which would seem to be a no-brainer. But wait. There is one more candidate, not a person, but the Vose Law Firm out of Winter Park. In Baenziger’s letter of recommendation he states, “Although beyond the scope of our assignment, we have additionally provided some information concerning the law firm that submitted a proposal.”
So, if the Vose Law Firm is “beyond the scope” of this executive search firm we hired to find a new City Attorney, why are we considering them?
In his defense, Baenziger checked them out by Googling them, talking with the Florida Bar and others, just like you would do if suddenly someone wanted to do business with you and you knew nothing about them. He probably didn’t have time to research the negative story about Vose Law Firm’s founder that made headlines in Deltona when she worked for that city.
Many of you reading this have attended meetings for different City departments, or any public meeting for that matter, and the in-house City Attorney is always present. You or someone you know has probably met with the City Attorney who is always available during business hours, because he works for you, the public, in that capacity. You may have seen him out for dinner or at a charity event, or shopping at Publix (okay, that may be a stretch). The point is, the City Attorney lives in the community he or she serves. That would also be a no-brainer. In fact, if you work or serve in just about any capacity for the City, you must be a resident of the City. Surely any of the candidates Baenziger recommended would move here. Right?
So here we are, about to hire a new City Attorney, who will be integral to all major decisions made by the City, including whether to sell the three most valuable properties the City/public owns to a big developer or keep it in the public trust…wait a minute. If an Orlando-area law firm is hired, not a resident, not an accountable City employee, will that firm work in your best interests?
Think about it as you drive down to City Hall for that one o’clock meeting.