The City of Branson will continue to receive Legal Counsel from a firm performing the duties of City Attorney.
The full story below from Jason Wert of the Branson Tri-Lakes News:
The Branson Board of Aldermen are scheduled to give second approval to an agreement to keep a law firm specializing in municipal government issues acting as the city attorney rather than hiring one individual lawyer.
The city had been using a law firm in lieu of an individual attorney since the departure of Chris Lebeck in early 2022. Initially, the city used the firm KutakRock in the role before transitioning in May 2023 to the services of attorney Joe Lauber and his firm Lauber Municipal Law, LLC. on a temporary basis.
“You have had the opportunity to work with Joe for the last several months, as has [city staff],” Branson City Administrator Cathy Stepp told the board. “It was nice to be able to dip our toes into the water on this one.”
Stepp explained the city’s recruitment process through BakerTilly had not been fruitful.
“The results of the process were, well, anemic would be the best word I could use,” Stepp said. “The challenge we are finding is there are less and less attorneys nationwide who are getting into municipal law. In Missouri we’re seeing more and more of a trend of municipalities who are outsourcing their legal services as a result of the lack of people who are truly experts in municipal law.”
Stepp said the benefits to the city using the Lauber firm include the fact many of his firm’s attorneys specialize in different parts of municipal law, enhancing the expertise available to the city in legal matters.
“It’s like getting 13 attorneys for the price of one,” Stepp said.
Stepp thanked the aldermen for allowing the trial process with Lauber’s firm to make sure the process would be what city staff needed from the attorney’s office.
“We wanted to see if this would work,” Stepp said. “It has not only worked but it’s worked so well it’s actually exceeded my expectations.”
Mayor Larry Milton talked about the cost savings to the city moving from KutakRock to Lauber’s firm.
“I believe our [hourly] rate was close to $325?” Milton asked.
Stepp said it depended on what services the city was using at the time but it was usually close to $400 an hour. Milton said the rate for Lauber is $195 an hour, more than half the cost of the other firm, and he was very happy with the firm’s work.
“I’ve been extremely impressed,” Milton said.
The agreement with Lauber Municipal Law, LLC would limit the amount they could charge the city of Branson for legal services over the length of a year to $250,000.
As the previous full-time city attorney, Lebeck was paid $107,283 during his last full year in the position, with that total not including benefits and bonuses nor general legal services from an outside firm.
“The City will benefit from nearly a 45% per hour cost savings for general attorney services compared to the previous contracted legal firm. The City’s 2023 enacted budget included $325k for general legal services and a City Attorney position,” the city of Branson said in a statement to the Branson Tri-Lakes News.
The ordinance to finalize the agreement will undergo a second reading as part of the aldermen’s consent agenda at the Tuesday, May 23, 2023 regular meeting.