Portage Council hires own legal representation

2013-10-01T20:45:00Z 2013-10-02T07:54:03Z Portage Council hires own legal representationJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | The Portage City Council on Tuesday night approved hiring its own legal representation.

The vote to hire the Portage firm of Rhame and Elwood faced objections from Mayor James Snyder and Councilman John Cannon.

Council President Sue Lynch said the hiring of an independent legal representative has come after she was questioned by several fellow council members. She said it is also not unprecedented.

"This is the first I've heard of it," said Cannon, one of two Republicans on the council. The second Republican councilman, Ted Uzelac Jr., was absent from the meeting. "Why wouldn't you tell all the council members? Communication between council members is pathetic."

Cannon asked Lynch why an independent attorney was needed and had other firms been contacted.

Lynch said council members wanted their own attorney "in the event they have things they want to look into."

Snyder requested the motion to be amended that any law firm hired by the council would not be in any litigation against the city.

Ken Elwood, a partner in the firm, represented several street department employees who were placed on administrative leave during a police investigation this summer. At that time, Elwood said the employees were considering legal options. The investigation did not lead to any charges against the employees.

Cannon, who motioned for the amendment, said hiring the firm was a conflict. The amendment died for the lack of a second.

Councilman Mark Oprisko said he believes Rhame and Elwood is a reputable law firm and wanted to make sure they were paid the same hourly rate as City Attorney Gregg Sobkowski, who is paid $140 per hour.

Oprisko also chided Cannon, saying he called Lynch when he saw the council appointment on Tuesday's agenda.

"If you have a question, you need to make a phone call," Oprisko said.

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