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New attorney hired

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By Alice Du Pont

The Gadsden County Board of Commissioners last Tuesday night hired the Tallahassee law firm of Ausley and McMullen as legal representatives of the county. Deborah Minnis will be the attorney of record. Michael Glazer will be the deputy county attorney.

"I'm a little leery going forward and I have concerns about a conflict of interest. I didn't support the process on how we got here," said Commissioner Sherrie Taylor."

Commissioner Doug Croley said he didn't understand why anyone would have a problem with the process because it was fair. He called the firm's response to the request for proposals a "major" savings to the county.

Taylor said last month that she felt all commissioners should have been involved in the process of interviewing potential attorneys but only Croley was involved. Taylor said she felt Croley had more knowledge of the firm than other commission members.

"There was no discussion of the top five candidates and the Ausley and McMullen form was chosen on one vote," she said. The process, she said, was not right.

"We needed help in controlling the cost of legal fees which had gotten out of hand over the past 3 years," said Commissioner Gene Morgan.

The current contract calls for $7,000 for the first 50 hours per month with an hourly rate of $165 for any additional hours. Work done by associates will cost the county 125 per hour. The contract stipulates that any work by other attorneys will be billed at a discounted rate that must be approved by the county administrator.

Taylor asked Minnis if she had any experience with county government.

"I'm currently the attorney for the Gadsden County School Board and the Leon County School Board. I am familiar with ordinances and I have experience with similar types of government issues," Minnis said.

She reminded Taylor that the law firm has lawyers with a variety of expertise and that she will able to draw on their expertise and experience when needed.when But Taylor said she was still had concerns about possible conflicts of interest but Minnis explained that the Florida Bar Association has measures in place to address that issue.

The contract takes effect June 1.

In other business, commissioners:

• Voted to $25,000 to the chamber of commerce from the general fund for economic development.

• Voted to approve a budget amendment to pay Ajax Construction for work completed on the hospital before Childers Construction began work.

• Voted to table naming the Chattahoochee library for Mary Frances Cowen and Bettie Cowen.

• Voted to table accepting streets in the Magnolia Forest subdivision until more financial information is available.

• Voted to approve a reimbursement with interest $21,058.45 owed to Kiwi's Hospitality for installation of a temporary septic tank system at Highway 267 and Interstate 10.

• Voted to table a reduction in force policy presented by the county administrator until the county's attorney has had an opportunity to examine the document.