Exclusive report in the Yelm Community Blog.
This issue has not been covered in depth by the Nisqually Valley News.
– Story summary
City Administrator Michael Gryaum submitted his response to Yelm Community Blog readers about Councilor Carmody’s suggestions on the replacement for City Attorney and City Prosecutor, which was reported here January 10, 2018. Councilor Carmody provided a further response at bottom.
Mayor Foster has demonstrated he resists change, yet he should have appointed a new prosecutor and city attorney when elected.
Carmody was correct – while the city admin. stated newly elected mayor Foster appointed Dille as city prosecutor and city attorney to maintain consistency right after Dille created his own law firm last Autumn, Carmody said this smacks of cronyism and back-scratching and is unacceptable.
– Bottom line:
+ Councilor Carmody is attempting to get city leadership to be consistent in open up bidding for all legal services, “to present a fair and open and transparent contract.”
+ The whole issue of legal representative Brent Dille assigned to the City of Yelm for 15+ years by law firm BGWP, then leaving that firm and starting his own practice, then Mayor Foster immediately appointing Dille to city attorney and city prosecutor, raised many questions, especially regarding favoritism and transparency, which Carmody nailed!
+ Dille served as BGWP’s legal representative as the City Attorney for Yelm since 2000, when this town was a third of the current size. The 2000 population was 3,289, where today’s population is estimated at over 9,000.
+ In 2002, Dille was also appointed BGWP’s legal representative as prosecutor for the City.
+ Mayor Foster has proven he is resistant to change, however in his new role as an elected mayor, this was the perfect time to bring in a new city attorney AND a new prosecutor. The size of city Yelm has become demands there be two separate persons as city prosecutor and city attorney. As usual, Foster chose what was familiar and expedient for him, rather than what was best for his constituents.
+ Since Yelm has more than doubled in size since Dille was appointed 15+ years ago to handle both positions for BGWP, the time has come for new legal representation and two separate lawyers for each of these these posts. Foster did not take such action.
+ I agree with Carmody’s stand.
While the city administrator can correctly explain this was legal and consistency was the key consideration, the city’s past and present leaders have been told repeatedly by the State Auditor’s Office that they should take every action to avoid even the mere appearance of any conflicts of interest. Dille left BGWP and established his own law firm and Mayor Foster appointing him to represent the city as attorney and prosecutor right after he left BGWP may support consistency, however just does not look good for a mayor who ran with a platform of transparency.
When JW Foster’s elected position as mayor was finally certified November 28, 2017, I wrote this:
“And now the Judicial Branch will be changing with a coming new city attorney contract (was announced last night that city attorney Brent Dille is leaving his firm), which is good news as Yelm has not been well-served in recent years from what has become another relic of the Harding era that needed to go.”
From the city’s website about Brent Dille, City Prosecutor/City Attorney
“Brent has lived in the Pacific Northwest all his life. After graduating from the University of Washington, he attended Seattle University School of Law. Brent joined Bean, Gentry, Wheeler & Peternell, PLLC in 2014, but has served as the City Attorney for Yelm since 2000. In 2002, he was appointed prosecutor for the City. Brent is married and has two children. When not practicing law, he enjoys boating, skiing, golf, and Husky football.”
Story highlights covered here from the January 9, 2018 council session
* Councilor Carmody noted there was a change to city attorney, prosecutor,
* There was no open bidding process on these posts’ changes as required by law,
* The city council was not provided an opportunity to vote on these changes,
* Carmody called on this to be resolved by Court session on Thursday morning.
– City Administrator Michael Grayum sent this in response
“The City of Yelm leadership team has explored multiple options and recommended the Mayor have Brent Dille continue serving as our legal representative to provide stability and consistency during this time of transition for the city. We are working diligently to close out projects from 2017, start new initiatives for the year ahead, and undergo an intense hiring and on-boarding process of several new employees. Stability and consistency are critical in our current situation.
We have had several conversations with BGWP and confirmed they would have no objections or legal issues with Brent continuing to contract with the City of Yelm for civil legal services and prosecution services. Brent came into BGWP with the contract for the City of Yelm and continued to be the attorney primarily responsible for legal representation for both civil and prosecution services for the city. Our files remain with Brent Dille and have now been transferred to Dille Law. We will revisit our legal service needs later this year, which may result in one or more requests for proposals.”
“Yelm City Code 2.30.010 states the position of City Attorney shall be appointed by the Mayor.”
“There are no statutory requirements for Personal Services Contracts for local governments, with the exception of port districts and public facilities districts.
“More information can be found on the Municipal Research Services Center website.”
– Councilor Carmody responded as follows
“Title 35 [scroll down to : “Public contracts and indebtedness, generally: Title 39 RCW.”] which refers to cities and towns directs laws on public contracts to Title 39. That means that cities and towns must adhere to Title 39 in re public contracts.
“Thank you for the reference to the MRSC re legal services. HOWEVER. Yelm bids out the defense contract. It should also bid out prosecution and civil. You can’t do one and not the other, not without looking like you’re playing favorites. My preference would be to bid out all legal services, to present a fair and open and transparent contract.”
– Carmody added on her councilor Facebook page
“The arrangement that the city has now with Dille, having not been put out for bid, smacks of cronyism and back-scratching. Unacceptable. The city knew about this for a month and only scrambled to get contracts in place because it knew that I would be addressing this at council meeting on Tuesday [Jan. 9].
Read more, scroll down to Jan. 11th post.