Lowell council hires new town attorney

2013-01-06T19:30:00Z 2013-01-13T17:16:07Z Lowell council hires new town attorneyMelanie Csepiga Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 06, 2013 7:30 pm  • 

LOWELL | A new voting alliance on the Town Council crossed party lines Thursday to name a new attorney, engineering firm and leadership.

David Westland, of Schererville, was named the new town attorney.

After Edgar Corns, R-5th, was elected council president, Councilman Donald Parker, D-3rd, moved to name Westland town attorney.

Parker, Corns and Councilman Robert Philpot, R-2nd, carried the vote. Outgoing council President Phillip Kuiper, D-4th, and Councilman Craig Earley, D-1st, opposed the measure.

Corns said Westland is with Westland Kramer and Bennett, of Schererville. The firm was formed recently after Tauber Westland and Bennett split into two new law firms.

The council did not approve a contract or rate of pay for Westland.

Lowell Clerk-Treasurer Judy Walters said the maximum pay per town ordinance is $150 an hour.

Westland said Friday that he has municipal experience with Hammond and Highland.

"I look forward to serving the town and helping the council move in a good direction," he said.

Westland replaces Gregory Sobkowski, of Merrillville-based Hodges and Davis. Sobkowski served the town for five years.

While changing town attorneys is common practice, particularly when there is new leadership, the manner in which the switch was made was questioned Thursday by resident Neil Fitzmaurice.

"How is the selection process done?" he asked.

Fitzmaurice said he had not read or heard announcements of interviews scheduled or meetings held regarding prospective attorneys.

Past practice in Lowell has been for interviews to be conducted as a council.

Corns said Fitzmaurice's questions will be answered when the council meets within the week.

On Friday, Corns called a work session for 4:30 p.m. Thursday to introduce Westland and those from SEH Engineering, the town's new engineering firm. The meeting will be followed by an executive session at 5:30 p.m. regarding personnel.

Westland said he and his partners will attend the meeting.

Kuiper and Earley implied last week the attorney selection process was not handled properly.

Kuiper said he was "advised a new attorney would be hired." He and Earley were not privy to any interviews.

Corns said Thursday after the meeting, "A couple of us decided we needed a change. We figured we had the three votes (necessary for a majority)."

When asked how Westland was selected by the three without the typical interview process, he said Westland was recommended by another attorney, but declined to name that person.

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