Council, mayor settle on new city attorney firm

Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — Officials here ended a standoff by choosing a new city attorney firm Wednesday.

City Council members Jill Brandana, Jacklyn Molner, Herman Ramik, Dennis Stapleton and Suzanne Weycker voted to approve law firm Plunkett Cooney, replacing former City Attorney Edward Plato, with Councilman John Delo and Council Chairwoman Cheryl Burke voting against.

The firm has several offices, the nearest in Detroit. Its main representative for Taylor issues will be attorney John Martin, a former detective in the city’s Police Department.

Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand offered the council a choice between Plunkett Cooney and McGraw Morris P.C. of Troy.

The vote brings to a close a debate that began when Lamarand fired Plato after taking office in November and replaced him with Randall Pentiuk. Plato had continued to attend meetings with the support of five City Council members, citing city charter stipulations, and the mayor filed a lawsuit against Plato to get him to step down.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Susan Borman ruled earlier this month that Lamarand had the unilateral right to fire the city’s corporation counsel, but that the council also has the right to approve a replacement as recommended by the mayor. Delo, Molner, Ramik, Stapleton and Weycker refused to approve Pentiuk’s firm.

Borman ordered that Lamarand present that replacement within 14 days and gave the council seven days after the recommendation to approve the hiring. The process would have repeated until an attorney firm was chosen.

Last week the council, minus Ramik, met with Lamarand in a session facilitated by former 23rd District Court Judge Anthony Nicita in an effort to move things along. Lamarand later selected Plunkett Cooney and McGraw Morris from a field that also included two other firms that he declined to recommend to the council.

Molner said Wednesday that Plunkett Cooney was a “good firm,” but wanted to go on record as saying she would have liked the opportunity to review the other two firms that Lamarand had considered before narrowing the council’s choices to two. She said that both firms charge less per hour than than Plunkett Cooney or McGraw Morris.

Burke said with all due respect to the companies recommended Wednesday, the firm of Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak of Wyandotte — brought on by Lamarand immediately after he fired Plato — charges $90 per hour, the same rate as one of the firms the mayor did not recommend.

“I felt that (Pentiuk Couvreur) was the best choice for us, but unfortunately we’re not doing that tonight,” she said.

In firing Plato, the mayor cited cost savings to the city as a factor because Plato charged $150 per hour. Plunkett Cooney’s rate is $125 per hour.

Lamarand said after the meeting that he had hoped to save the city more money on attorney fees, and that he would continue to look for other ways to address the $6 million budget deficit facing the city.