Councilman Scales gives OK on potential legal advisor

The city of Bainbridge Island is getting closer to finding an acceptable lawyer who can offer outside advice on potential conflicts of interest involving the city attorney.

Last week, Bainbridge Island City Councilman Bob Scales told Mayor Debbi Lester that he was OK with one of the three attorneys suggested by Lester for the informal counseling session.

The proper role for Bainbridge's city attorney has been the topic of much talk since January, after Councilman David Ward hired an attorney from Inslee Best — without the council's approval — to give advice on how the city could get rid of its city manager.

Inslee Best later submitted a bill totaling $3,553 for legal services between Jan. 5 and Jan. 16; the work included the review of employment agreements and drafting of a separation agreement for former city manager Brenda Bauer.

Some on the council were caught by surprise by the bill from Inslee Best, and the council decided not to pay the bill. Others asked why city officials hadn't instead sought advice from Will Patton, their own in-house attorney.

Ward and Lester, however, said Patton could not provide his legal opinion on issues involving Bauer because they claimed it posed a conflict of interest since Bauer had hired Patton.

Earlier this month, Lester offered three suggestions for an outside attorney who could brief the council on conflicts of interest; Thomas Brubaker, Ken Bagwell and Bruce Disend.

Scales told Lester that he thought Brubaker was acceptable and added that he did not approve of Bagwell or Disend.

Scales said both work for private law firms, like Inslee Best, and would likely advise the city to use outside attorneys instead of relying on its own attorney when potential conflicts arose.

Brubaker had served as a city attorney for 10 years, Scales said, and he asked Lester to schedule a time for Brubaker to speak with the council as soon as possible.

"Council member Scales has done his homework and has found someone he approves of," Lester said.

"We will bring it back to council and see who they decide," she added. "I'd like to hear from the five other people on the council."

The discussion on outside attorneys is expected to continue at a future council meeting, but Lester did not indicate when the topic would make it onto the agenda.

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