News - August 11, 2010

Council wants bidding process for choosing town attorney

by Renee Batti

An ad hoc committee of two council members and a handful of citizens will most likely help the Atherton City Council in the process of hiring a town attorney, the council agreed in a special meeting held the morning of Aug. 2.

Current town attorney Wynne Furth formally notified the town on July 1 that her firm, McDonough Holland & Allen, was terminating its contract, effective Aug. 31, because the firm was ending its operations. Ms. Furth subsequently submitted a proposed agreement between the town and her new firm, Burke, Williams & Sorenson of Menlo Park.

Although City Manager Jerry Gruber, at the council's July 21 meeting, recommended retaining Ms. Furth and the services of the new law firm, the council asked Mr. Gruber to come up with more options, including going out to bid for legal services, and appointing a committee of citizens and council members to facilitate the process.

At that meeting and the Aug. 2 meeting, Ms. Furth's performance was debated, with Mayor Kathy McKeithen most forcefully expressing dissatisfaction with it, and Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis defending Ms. Furth's work with the town, which has been hit hard by litigation and settlements costs.

With the council majority supporting a bidding process to hire the next attorney and formation of an ad hoc committee to participate, Ms. Lewis and Councilman Jim Dobbie volunteered to be on the committee.

The council is expected to formalize its decision to appoint a committee at its regular meeting on Aug. 18, when, it is hoped, all council members will be present. Councilman Jerry Carlson was absent from the Aug. 2 meeting.


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