Lee’s Summit appoints former employee as interim city attorney

rpulley@lsjournal.comNovember 27, 2013 

Lee’s Summit appointed a former employee to be the interim City Attorney, but only after a brief scuffle about the cost.

Rich Wood, an attorney with the firm of Gilmore & Bell, was named interim City Attorney Nov. 21.

Wood was Lee’s Summit Assistant City Attorney in 2001, promoted to Deputy City Attorney in 2004 and separated from the city in 2006.

The council voted 6-2, with Bob Johnson and Derek Holland voting no, to approve the contract with terms that Wood would be paid $150 an hour.

Councilman Ed Cockrell quickly moved for the appointment. Bob Johnson and Derek Holland objected to rush to make the appointment.

Johnson said the decision was being “railroaded.” Holland said he wouldn’t call it a railroad, but maybe there was a new “prayer chain” in place.

The other council members didn’t respond to those comments.

Johnson and Holland said their problem was the amount the city would be paying to the firm. Johnson said in comparison, City Attorney Teresa Williams is paid $84 an hour.

City Manger Steve Arbo said the reason for the higher rates was an independent firm has overhead such as offices and marketing.

Johnson challenged that, saying Wood, while doing work for the city, would be using city office space and equipment. The city’s human resources director would be handling administrative matters in the interim.

Williams remarked, “I’m severely underpaid.”

She is leaving the city to take a position as County Attorney in Montrose County, Colorado.

The contract calls for no more than 80 billable hours per month, and the fees not to exceed $12,000 a month, unless approved by the council.

“We’re going to get a really good bill out of this,” Holland said. “I think we’re going the wrong direction with this.”

Holland said that the rate is too high, because Wood won’t handle administration responsibilities, which is significant part of the City Attorney’s job.

Council member Dave Mosby said while the city had cheaper options, but he thought it should hire Woods and “reduce our costs by hiring a (permanent) attorney and get this going.”

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