Lee’s Summit City Attorney Teresa Williams is leaving the city to take a job as a county attorney in Colorado.
The Montrose Board of County Commissioners formally approved her three-year contract with an unanimous vote Oct. 17, the county announced on its website.
She will start with Montrose County Dec. 16, 2013.
“Williams was a clear choice,” said Montrose County Vice Chairman David White. “She has extensive experience in municipal law as in-house counsel for both cities and counties, with a particular expertise in land use, labor issues, property transactions, economic development, taxes and administrative law. We are pleased to welcome her aboard.”
A former city attorney for Glenwood Springs and Archuleta County, Williams is familiar with Colorado.
“My husband (Rusty) and I have lived on the western slope twice before and we are excited to call Montrose our new home,” Williams said. “Some of our very best years have been in western Colorado, we are really looking forward to becoming part of the community.”
Williams began as Lee’s Summit City Attorney in November 2008. Her salary is $135,612 annually and her service with the city ends Nov. 30.
“I have enjoyed working with all city staff, especially the members of the Law Department, both the Civil and the Prosecution Division,” Williams said in a statement provided by the city. “They have made my decision an exceptionally difficult one. I thank the City Council for giving me the opportunity to serve the city and City Manager Steve Arbo for providing me with the freedom and support in the implementation of my vision for the Law Department.”
According to the City Charter, the council hires the city attorney, not the mayor or city manager, and the council will appoint an interim attorney.
The city and Williams in 2011 were sued by a former city prosecutor, Rachel Townsend, who accused Williams of sexual harassment and other serious personnel violations in 2010. Townsend was fired after sending a memo to City Manager Steve Arbo.
Townsend’s harassment claim centered on a birthday card she considered offensive. Townsend sued for unlawful termination, saying she was fired in retaliation for her complaint.
Townsend settled with the city and its insurance company in March for $277,000. Nearly $16,000 went to Townsend for lost wages and $48,000 for damages. Her attorneys received nearly $150,000 in legal fees and $64,000 went to a trustee in a bankruptcy case involving Townsend and her husband Michael Brown.
Mayor Randy Rhoads was mayor pro-tem when the council hired Williams, so he led the search and interviewing process when she was selected.
Rhoads declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The mayor said Williams at times gave the council unpopular advice.
“Sometimes you have to stand up to the council and tell them they can’t do something, to discourage them from doing something they want to do,” Rhoads said. “She was willing to do that, she knew it’s part of the territory.”
Rhoads credits Williams with bringing more of the city’s legal work back to her office to be done by staff internally, to limit outsourcing that was causing additional expense for the city.
“Teresa has tried to rein that in,” Rhoads said. “I’m sorry to see her leave.”
Allan Gray, who is the council’s elected mayor pro-tem, said a meeting is planned with the mayor and city manager to discuss the initial process the council will undertake for finding a replacement. Gray said he everyone was surprised by Williams decision.
“Teresa (Williams) has given the city a tremendous amount of good legal advice and direction,” Gray said. “We certainly wish her well.”