CHIPLEY - Chipley’s Redevelopment Agency approached the Chipley City Council this week to seek out their own legal representation for the CRA.
Ted Everett, Executive Director of Washington County Chamber and Economic Development Officer, who also serves on the CRA said the committee had met and discussed their idea and currently have an attorney in mind who was, “well versed” in CRA verbiage. Everett said while he did not have to seek council’s approval before seeking the attorney as the billable payment was within his scope of authority for expenditures, he felt he needed to let the council know of their plans before hand.
“I came as a matter of transparency,” Everett said. “I am trying to show we are as transparent about this as possible.”
City Clerk Patrice Tanner said Everett has approval to spend up to $10,000 without the Council’s approval but anything over that would have to have council’s approval. A concern was made by council that the billable hours for the attorney would over exceed Everett’s authority, requiring Council’s approval.
City Administrator Dan Miner said he had not heard about the committee’s intentions to seek outside legal representation prior to Everett’s approaching the council. In the past, he said the CRA has always used the city’s attorney for legal representation into CRA matters.
Councilwoman Linda Cain asked why the council and city staff had not been notified of this before that night.
“I think the common courtesy would have been to go to the city attorney and inform her,” Cain said.
Michelle Blankenship Jordan, the city’s attorney, said she had not been approached about the CRA’s plans.
“I feel a little ambushed here,” Jordan said. “I would like an explanation about why we are looking for another attorney.”
Councilman Brett Butler, who serves as liaison to the CRA, said Everett wanted a dedicated attorney for the organization since their scope of work is expanding.
“He thinks it would cut into the city attorney’s time,” Butler said.
Cain asked Jordan if she felt she could handle the CRA’s needs and Jordan said she had been doing so since 2011.
Cain also asked Everett if he had a problem with Jordan’s handling of the committee’s legal representation.
Everett said he, “was neither pleased, nor displeased.”
Council voted to table discussions on the topic until their meeting in December. Council also voted to have the City Attorney attend the next CRA meeting to get more information on their expansion.