Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 17, 2018

Keosauqua approves new city attorney from Centerville

One councilor argues for hiring local attorney
By Rusty Ebert, Ledger correspondent | Jan 19, 2018

KEOSAUQUA – The Keosauqua City Council approved designating a new city attorney during its meeting Jan 9.

For the last several years, the council has had John Morrissey as city attorney. But recently, it had Nicole Cox of Craver and Grothe in Centerville handle some items and it was proposed at last month’s council meeting to change city attorneys.

Mayor Nasseem Hesler supported the change.

“We know they have a proven track record, they know us now, they know our issues. And they help us solve our issues,” Hesler told the council during the meeting.

Council member Chuck Lazenby was the lone dissenter. He argued that the council should consider local attorneys, including attorney Craig Miller.

“I think local attorneys should be given some consideration if we no longer require John’s services,” said Lazenby.

“Craig Miller was city attorney for six years for Keosauqua, he was the county attorney for eight years and he lives within the city limits,” Lazenby added.

Other council members disagreed, saying the council needs to hire an attorney who specializes in city government.

“Working in the recorder’s office, you had certain attorneys that are good at real estate, certain attorneys good at divorce, each have their own expertise. I believe in small town U.S.A. and shopping local, but I think in this case, if we had hired sooner, we could have saved those buildings. It’s too late now, and it makes me real sad. I like Craig, I like John Morrisey, but for city problems, this law firm is well equipped,” said council member Twyla Peacock.

Council member Larry Shipley favored designating Craver and Grothe.

“My feelings are, we had John ever since I’ve been on the council and one of the first complaints I had ever made to John was about those buildings on First Street and getting those titles. We used these people [Craver and Grothe] and within six months we have titles,” Shipley said.

“I want somebody, if we have a problem, they are here. We can call them. You can’t call John every time. I don’t think any of our attorneys are trained for doing whatever type of city business we are doing. You need a group that works with cities and handles city business, that are used to working with the city,” Shipley said.

Lazenby responded, “If we need a specialized attorney for a particular aspect of the law they might cover, that’s understandable. I think she did a good job on those buildings. Whether that’s our best choice for day in, day out business, I’m not sure.”

City clerk Joy Padget told Lazenby, “When you talk about day-to-day stuff, we don’t use attorneys for anything but these type of things.”

In the long run, Hesler said, “working with a firm that specializes in city government” will save the town time dealing with some of the issues it has encountered.

“The way we have used her during this time, whenever we call she gets back to us right away all the time with great solutions. We saved a lot of time on the nuisance abatement process. They have solutions that we weren’t coming up with before. Instead of sending all these notices to abate, we’re sending one and the thing gets resolved. They have given us tools for how to resolve these things much more quickly, because they have a lot of expertise in this.

“It’s not being responsible to the citizens of this town to not use the best attorney and law firm that we can,” said Hesler. “It’s misguided. We know they have a proven track record, they know us now, they know our issues. And they help us solve our issues. It doesn’t serve our citizens well to say we are going to hire someone only because they live in Keosauqua and not this other firm that’s doing a great job. That logic doesn’t work.”

• Kris Rankin updated the council on the SAFE coalition. She said they have worked to get six ID scanners, which makes it easier for places that sell alcohol to check for age. She said a grant pays for half and the business pays half. Currently two businesses, Farmington American Legion and River View Country Club, use them. She said they also have four available for events.

Lazenby asked if the scanners stored information. Rankin said they are capable of doing that, but they aren’t using that capability. They are just using it for scanning.

“Sounds like a great deal, as long as it doesn’t track you,” Lazenby said.

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