By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – City Council is moving forward again with the framework to be able to hire an independent counsel in the future.
Warsaw City Council has been considering the idea of hiring an attorney for their interests for the past year, but progress in finalizing the steps that would be followed to do so were slowed by the pandemic.
On Monday, June 15, council picked up the conversation after voting preliminarily on an ordinance in March that would establish a protocol on how the council would hire an attorney.
The process hit a snag, though, when council members chose to make a word change in the proposal. The ordinance refers to the process of hosting a public hearing if they choose to hire an attorney for a specific purpose.
Public hearings specifically involve time for pubic input, but most council members prefer to use the word public meeting, the latter of which would allow for public input but does not require it.
“I think it’s an important change even though it’s a minor change,” said City Attorney Scott Reust, who has been working with the council on the plan.
The change in wording was approved by a 6-1 vote. Councilman Jeff Grose, who opposes the concept of hiring outside legal assistance, voted against the change.
Councilman Michael Klondaris, a strong supporter of the idea, said the change makes an important difference.
“Personally, I’m glad we had some time, thank you COVID, to look at this again. I personally think it should be a public meeting,” Klondaris said.
Grose noted that adoption of the policy would be the first for a city the size of Warsaw in Indiana. Not requiring public input sends the wrong message, he said, when it comes to using public dollars.
Councilmember Cindy Dobbins pointed out that the council spends larger sums of money without holding public hearings.
Council has set aside $12,000 for the potential use of an attorney.
A final vote could be cast at the council’s next meeting.