After decades of work with the law firm Jorgenson, Siegel, McClure & Flegel, LLP, the Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday is set to consider hiring a different law firm: Burke Williams Sorenson, LLP, and a new city attorney.
The council created an ad hoc committee with members Ray Mueller and Mayor Drew Combs to discuss recruitment for city attorney services, and the city put out a request for proposals for city attorney services. Council members Catherine Carlton and Vice Mayor Betsy Nash were appointed to analyze the proposals and perform reference checks, according to the report.
From there, the council asked the staff and special counsel to negotiate the final terms for a full service agreement with Nira Doherty of Burke Williams Sorenson, LLP to become the new designated city attorney, according to the report.
Doherty is currently interim City Attorney for South Lake Tahoe, General Counsel for the Tahoe Transportation District and Assistant City Attorney for the cities of St. Helena and Pacifica, according to the Burke Williams Sorenson website.
The proposed agreement treats the city attorney like an independent contractor and pays an hourly rate, without a retainer fee or cap on general legal services. Services will be generally billed at rates of $270 to $305 per hour, while paralegals are billed at $135 per hour, according to a staff report. The program will also increase hourly rates $5 per year as a cost of living adjustment starting July 1, 2022.
Doherty graduated from law school at University of California, Davis and college at University of California, Berkeley, according to her firm's website.
Although the decision to consider pursuing a contract with the new law firm was made in closed session, two council members, Mueller and Combs, have publicly expressed that they did not approve of the remainder of the council members' decision to switch to working with a new law firm.
At the council's Feb. 9 meeting, Combs said he strongly disagreed with the decision to not appoint the interim city attorney on a permanent basis, and Mueller said that he was "in agreement with the mayor's position."
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the new contract at its meeting set for Tuesday, Feb. 23, which starts at 5 p.m. Access the agenda and online meeting information here.