The Lake City Council voted to hire new city attorneys and promote the interim city manager to a permanent position during a special and regular meeting on Monday evening.
During the special meeting that happened first, attorneys Scott Walker and Thomas Kennon III from different law firms pitched a plan for Lake City to hire them jointly for the city attorney position.
The Koberlein Law Offices decided to stop their contract once it expires this fall.
Walker said the agreement would allow the city to utilize experts within both law offices and called the agreement common.
“It’s a wheel that’s already been invented, and we don’t need to invent a new one,” Walker said to the council. “We just need to process it and operate it and do it in an efficient manner.”
The two attorneys would work as the principal contacts, and one of the two would attend each Lake City meeting. Kennon said the city won’t work directly with 20 different attorneys. Instead, Scott and Kennon could collaborate with colleagues who specialize in land regulation or human resources before returning to the city.
Scott already serves as city attorney for Newberry, High Springs and Micanopy. But he said his first and third Mondays, when the Lake City Council meets, are free of regular meetings.
Council Member Eugene Jefferson asked who would be responsible to the city and how they’d know which attorney to call. Council Member Jake Hill Jr. and Todd Sampson expressed similar concerns.
The attorneys said they’d figure the system out with the manager and clerks’ offices, which would need to contact the attorneys most often. Walker said they could tweak as needed once they start.
Sampson made a motion, seconded by Hill, to accept the contract. The motion carried unanimously.
During the regular city meeting, an item concerning the city manager position was off the agenda. However, multiple citizens spoke during public comment in support of interim City Manager Paul Dyal.
Dyal has served as interim since January, taking over for Mike Williams, who served as interim for the last several months of 2021 before resigning for health reasons. The commenters said Dyal knew the city well and had already done a good job during 2022.
Dyal previously served as utility director and has worked for the city for more than 10 years.
At the last council meeting, a motion to make Dyal the permanent manager was tabled. The city had fired its search firm in June and planned to switch firms. But the change has been delayed.
“We should’ve already have been taking applications,” Sampson said at the meeting. “There’s no way we should’ve been this far down the road and not taking applications.”
Sampson said his preference would be to finalize the new contract for the search firm to let them vet candidates. A second option, he said, would be to interview the three other candidates who had sent applications to the city.
Jefferson pointed out the confusion in the current system.
“We need to be of the same accord, I would think,” Jefferson said. “If the headhunter is going to do it, let them do it. If we’re going to do it, we need to do it.”
Ultimately, Hill motioned to bring the city manager item back onto the agenda. Mayor Stephen Witt seconded, and the motion carried with Sampson in dissent.
Then, Hill motioned for the city to hire Dyal as the permanent manager. Witt again seconded the motion.
Hill, Witt and Jefferson all voted in favor, and Sampson said he would vote “yes” as well to make it unanimous.
Lake City has lacked a permanent city manager since the council fired Joe Helfenberger and placed then-human resources director Ami Fields into the position in June 2021. Fields then resigned in September 2021.