By PETER HUSSMANN
Three Des Moines-area law firms responded to the City of Newton's request for proposals to handle the City legal services prior to last Friday's deadline to submit letters of interest.
In late November, the City Council agreed to send out requests to both local and regional law firms to determine interest in providing legal services to the city on contract basis rather than by Newton City Attorney Darrin Hamilton, who has been with the city for 14 years.
In December, the city sent notices seeking interest in the contracted services to 27 law firms, including seven in Newton. The Des Moines firms of Hopkins & Huebner and Brick Gentry responded, as did the Stuyvesant & Benton Law Firm in Carlisle.
In asking for the requests for proposals, the City provided an outline of the scope of services it intended the firms to cover in providing legal representation for the city. In addition, it requested that the firms provide resumes of the attorneys involved, references, costs on an annual basis to retain the firm and the hourly rate for services behond the scope of the retainer.
In responding, each of the firms noted that they had extensive experience in handling municipal law and that they represent a number of cities and other governmental agencies throughout the state.
Hopkins & Huebner noted that the retainer for service would be $50,000 for scheduled meetings, prosecution of city offenses and any consultation or advice of four hours or less. Expenses and mileage would be billed. Legal services or consultation in excess of four hours would be billed at the rate of $200 per hour for its most senior attorney identified and $165 per hour for an attorney with the firm with less experience.
Brick Gentry said its standard municipal rate is $150 per hour for all attorney services and $75 per hour for services performed by paralegals and clerks. The firm would not require a retainer but would rather bill on a monthly basis for services delivered. The firm noted that it "would be difficult to provide an accurate annual cost for services," however estimated that based on the same amount of work "the firm's first year as City Attorney would cost approximately the same as spent on the previous City Attorney."
The Stuyvesant & Benton firm said it would propose a retainer of $2,500 per month. Services beyond the scope of the retainer would be for $130 per hour.
In seeking the interest from law firms, the letter from the City of Newton noted that a search committee consisting of the Mayor, two council members and the administrator would select the firms to be interviewed, conduct the interviews and make a recommendation to the full council. Interviews will be conducted in early January. Once a firm is selected, the scope of services will be further defined and a contract prepared to be acted upon by the Council.
A copy of the cover letter to the various firms, the request for letters of interest and qualifications, the ad for the request for proposals, the list of firms contacted and the letters of interest from the three firms as provided by the City from the Newton Independent's request for documents can be downloaded below.