Town seeks new legal firm

Attorney search prompted after review of vendor contracts over $50,000
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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The town of Loomis is shopping around for a new attorney. According to town manager Perry Beck, the town council authorized the solicitation for proposals for town attorney services at their March 10 meeting. Currently, attorney Dave Larsen is contracted to provide legal services for Loomis at an hourly rate of $135. Beck said Larsen receives a retainer of $68,250 each year and is paid for additional legal services as needed that average an additional $12,000 per year. Beck said 12 law firms, Larsen included, have been sent letters requesting proposals and an ad is running in the Daily Journal, a legal publication. Beck said that municipal law is “a unique branch of law and attorneys applying need experience in that area.” The search for a town attorney is the result of the council’s desire to review all contracts for outside services paid for by the town that are at $50,000 or more. Included in that list would be insurance, attorney services, animal control, sheriff’s services and bus transit services. Beck said legal services are the easiest to send out for bid, whereas the others are more difficult because the services are not available from anyone but the county. Larsen has served as the town attorney since 1997, Beck said. For the first two years Larsen served as interim town attorney until he was appointed to the position in 2001. For 13 years, Larsen has provided the town with legal services that include advising the council and town officers on legal matters pertaining to their position; providing legal services at meetings, preparing and approving all ordinances, resolutions, agreements and contracts; and prosecuting misdemeanor cases of town ordinance violations. Beck said Larsen has been given a 90-day termination notice, as required per his contract, but has also been invited to submit a new proposal for legal services. Larsen said he will not be submitting a proposal. Larsen said it has been a “privilege” to serve the council and the town “has faced uniquely difficult leadership challenges in developing ways to preserve the quality of life and the rural nature of the community, especially given the surrounding growth and resulting impacts.” According to Larsen, the highlights of his Loomis service included creating a counter-initiative in response to a private Turtle Island zoning initiative; overseeing the clean-up of a 40-acre site on Del Mar Avenue loaded with almost 50 vehicles and boats, several mobile structures, junk and debris; developing an effective legal response to the threat of a $20 million lawsuit by the owner of the Montserrat subdivision; and prevailing on a technicality in a CEQA lawsuit filed by a disgruntled Loomis resident. “More importantly, I have been able to help the Town avoid legal entanglements by accurately spotting hundreds of potential legal problems which were then dealt with at an early stage, as well as keeping Loomis’ town attorney costs well below market rate,” Larsen said. Joan Larson, of Loomis, does not see the need to change attorneys. “From what I see, everything is going perfectly. I don’t think we need a change,” Larson said. Leslie Brinskele, of Loomis, thinks the town has been getting a good deal on Larsen’s hourly rate. “Good luck finding someone for that price,” Brinskele said. “In this day and age, people are so litigious. Just for town council alone it’s worth it to have an attorney – to be able to make sure whatever they’re doing is correct,” she said. Beck said the deadline to receive proposals is April 4, and the council will then review them and decide on interviews. Beck said the he expects the new town attorney to be chosen and ready to begin by July 1.