County commissioners hire Tallahassee law firm

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By Alice Du Pont

The Tallahassee law firm of Ausley & McMullen has been selected to provide legal services to the Gadsden County Board of Commissioners. During the regular meeting Tuesday night, the firm was selected from the list of nine that submitted proposals.

Commissioner Doug Croley sat on the selection committee and made the motion to hire the firm. He was supported by commissioners Eugene Lamb and Gene Morgan.

He also recommended that Randy Hanna, an attorney and Gadsden County native, negotiate the terms of the agreement with Ausley & McMullen.

Commissioner Sherrie Taylor said she felt the entire commission should have been allowed to participate in the selection of a firm.

"I'm uncomfortable with this process because only one commissioner was on the committee. It gives one commissioner more input than the rest of us. I also think that the board ought to negotiate (the contract). I appreciate Mr. Hannah but I think we're giving away too much of our responsibility," she said.

Commissioner Brenda Holt agreed with Taylor.

"We do not need someone to negotiate. Mr. (Arthur) Lawson is familiar with the county. I would like to be able to look at them (the firm) for myself. I don't know anything about this firm other than what they've said on paper," Holt said.

Taylor also questioned the amount of money the firm is requesting.

"This firm wants $7,000 for the first 40 hours. Anything over that will be their regular hourly rate. They work for the school board and that will compromise us. I do know the person they will assign also represents the school board and sometimes there are meetings on the same night," Taylor said.

She warned other board members not to "jump out of the frying pan into the fire."

Commission chairman Eugene Lamb said he looked at all of the firms and they were all very good and that he approved the selection.

Hannah will begin negotiations soon but will be asked to stay in communication with county staff, especially Lawson, personnel director.

"I caution this board again that Mr. Lawson is over personnel," Holt said.

County attorney Thornton Williams said he is familiar with Ausley & McMullen and will work closely with them to transfer records and make a smooth transition.

All five commissioners individually thanked Williams and his firm for the legal guidance they have provided during the past 4 years.

Ausley & McMullen was hired last month to provide limited legal services related to reopening the hospital.