Twelve individuals have applied to be Sitka’s next city attorney. The applicant pool includes a mix of local lawyers and attorneys outside Alaska, along with proposals to do the job through a private practice. During a special meeting last night (08-10-16), the Assembly debated the merits of that option and voted on their top picks for follow-up interviews.

Downloadable audio.

Mark Danielson, the city’s  director of Human Resources, began by asking the Assembly to list their top choices. Standing before a piece of chart paper, he said, “By putting checkmarks next to the multiples – duplicates, etc. – and it becomes fairly obvious, usually, which ones you guys are most interested in.” One name got a lot of check marks.

Hunter: I’m interested in hearing more from Gagnon.

Swanson: Gagnon

Guevin: And then I had Gagnon.

Gagnon is Cary R. Gagnon, who is current counsel for a BakerHostetler in Denver, Colorado. Gagnon’s practice focuses on navigating local and state regulations, largely for the oil and gas industry. All seven Assembly members were interested in her application. And all seven were also interested in another set of names you may recognize.

Eisenbeisz: Jones and Hanson as well.

Hunter: Hanson.

Guevin: Some combination of Hanson and Jones.

Miyasato: And Hanson.

Potrzuski: And I also am interested in Mr. Hanson but the 20-hour caveat was a bit of an issue for me. Hanson, Hanson, Hanson.

Hanson is Brian Hanson, who was appointed the city’s interim attorney after the Assembly voted to terminate Robin Schmid in April. The city attorney position was advertised April 28th through June 18th.

In his letter, Hanson said he was not interested in taking on the full time position with benefits. Rather, he wanted to continue part-time as an independent contractor. Hanson is receiving support from the city’s Legal Assistant Reuben Yerkes and Rachel (Dinardo) Jones, a contract attorney.

Deputy Mayor Matthew Hunter said the current situation seems to be working. “I’ve heard wonderful things from staff and even some members of the public about our current situation about our interim municipal attorneys and how that’s working.”

Hanson’s proposal to continue part-time intrigued with Assembly, but Guevin wanted to consult city staff to see if that arrangement would be tenable long term. “It’s a big departure from what we’ve done in the past, so I think it requires more discussion than just going through the interview process, as we would for a normal applicant,” Guevin said.

Jones also applied for the position, but through a one year contract with Williams, Kastner, & Gibbs, a private firm based in Seattle. WKG’s proposal is to hire Jones to provide legal services to the city, with oversight from another WKG attorney, Markos Scheer. Based on the contract proposal, several Assembly members were uncomfortable hiring for the position through a firm.

Eisenbeisz: I don’t feel that I directly have an employee at that point. That I have to go through a firm to get to my employee, as opposed to that person directly being with us.

Potrzuski: I did not have them as our top picks because I personally would like to have one employee that we have a great relationship with.

Guevin: I guess my question would be along the same line as Steven’s, whether Mrs. Jones’s proposal is contingent on us working with Williams Kastner, or whether her services would be available directly with her.

In the end, the Assembly expressed a desire to interview WKG to explore the contract further, but also asked Jones – who was sitting in the audience – if she’d consider applying for the position separately.

Aside from Gagnon, Hanson, and Jones, the other top vote getters were Eugene F. Hickey, who holds a private practice in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Kevin Carlisle, who serves on the legal affairs team for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California.

As the meeting wrapped, Potrzuski complimented Danielson for his making the process a smooth one.

Potrzuski: I just wanted to thank you Mark. I kind of followed your protocol as you had written it out and it really made it a much easier process for me and I really appreciated how lucid it was and very easy to follow.

Danielson: Thank you very much.

The Assembly plans to conduct the majority of these 1-hour interviews on Saturday, August 20th, interviewing local attorneys in person and conducting out-of-town interviews through Skype. The final candidates will have a second in-person interview, along with a community meet-and-greet. The new attorney could start as early as October 1st.