Bainbridge accomplishes a ‘coup’ with hiring of new attorney

Bainbridge Island wasted little time in finding a new full-time attorney after Paul McMurray left the city on May 15.

Jack Johnson, a long-time island resident, has decided to join the city after serving nearly nine years as chief of the University of Washington Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.

Interim City Manager Brenda Bauer, who made the hiring announcement Thursday, said Johnson will begin work as city attorney in early August. She said the delay is the result of a long-planned trip by Johnson and his wife, Pamela, to perform volunteer work in Zimbabwe.

Bauer, who joined the city late last month after working since 2004 as director of the City of Seattle’s Fleets and Facilities Department, said being able to hire Johnson was a pleasant surprise.

“It’s a huge coup,” she said Thursday. “Getting someone of his caliber is amazing for us.”

In a press release, Bauer said: “I am delighted that Jack has chosen to join the city staff. His work at the UW has demanded particular expertise in the areas of contract management, personnel, open government, finance and land use. His knowledge in these areas will make him a tremendous asset.”

The city has been relying heavily on Inslee Best attorneys since former interim City Manager Lee Walton terminated McMurray “without cause” last month. Walton said he had decided to contract out legal services to save money.

“After much reflection it is my determination that it may be appropriated to contract for legal services,” Walton said last month.

In the city’s statement, Johnson said: “Bainbridge Island is a wonderful community with very talented city leaders. I am eager to help the city successfully take advantage of its many opportunities and navigate the challenges it faces.”

Johnson holds a law degree and an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Washington. In his role with the Attorney General’s office, he has served as general counsel to the university’s Board of Regents and administration, managing 14 attorneys.

He previously served as chief civil attorney for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, advising the mayor and City Council, supervising 45 attorneys, and providing the city government with legal advice and representation on all aspects of civil municipal law.

His experience also includes work with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, where his emphasis was contract law.

– Dennis Anstine

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