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Council gives more time to choosing city's legal team
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MONROE - Two legal firms dueled for the position of city attorney, but neither came out on top when Monroe Common Council decided to dedicate more time to the decision.

In a presentation of Kittelsen, Barry, Wellington, Thompson and Schluesche, S.C. versus Voegeli, Ewald & Bartholf Law Offices, S.C., Todd Schluesche argued first for the city to pick his firm. Schluesche, Amanda Fields and Scott Jacobson would make up the team of lawyers handling city matters, he said. Fields said she was a Monroe native who worked with City Clerk Carol Stamm before joining the Kittelsen law firm. Jacobson shared his experiences, including 16 years with his current firm.

"I have a good breadth of experience to serve me well as city attorney," he said.

Schluesche echoed the sentiment on behalf of himself and Fields. The lawyer said he has vast knowledge of municipal law through his position as village attorney for both Albany, for the past 19 years, and South Wayne, for more than 14 years.

"Certainly the city has had a fine attorney," Schluesche said. "We would be proud to carry on the tradition. We feel we can offer some real efficiency."

The tradition Schluesche referenced was long-standing City Attorney Rex Ewald of Voegeli, Ewald & Bartholf, who is set to retire within the next year. Dan Bartholf of the Voegeli law firm spoke for himself and colleague Craig Nolen, both natives of Monroe. Bartholf said the firm plans to act "highly responsive" with him as city attorney, which includes hiring a new associate to take on the different types of case law he currently practices. He also pointed out that he has vast experience because of his 16 years as assistant to Ewald on city matters.

"I have learned from him, he has trained me and kind of formed me," Bartholf said. "I think you'll find a smooth transition if you choose our firm."

Schluesche said he "would not be surprised" to hear the firm's requested rates were higher than Voegeli's, but indicated the number was for good reason because the group is a team of two paralegals and three lawyers. While their rate was $225 per hour, Voegeli quoted $145 per hour. Schluesche said general postage and other materials are included in the price. Bartholf indicated any materials would be included in billing cycles if used.

Regardless of discussion of cost and experience, city aldermen requested the decision not be made on Tuesday. Instead, council members delegated the task of evaluating both firms via a scorecard to city administration. In the past, hiring had included input from administrators.

Council members said they would like to see an evaluation from the administrator and assistant as well as the chief of police before making their final decision.