Mount Airy officials will discuss the awarding of a city attorney contract during a meeting today, which involves the same lawyer but a different firm than that used now.
The move is coinciding with the departure of City Attorney Hugh Campbell from the Gardner, Gardner & Campbell firm earlier this year to form his own practice.
Campbell has served as Mount Airy’s attorney since 2002, succeeding Carroll Gardner of that firm, whose legal team has represented the municipality since at least the early 1980s. The city attorney fills an advisory role with city government, including offering legal advice about various actions considered by the commissioners and being accessible as needed on a 24-7 basis.
Approval of the contract will be considered by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners when it meets today at 2 p.m. in the Municipal Building.
City Manager Barbara Jones indicated Wednesday that the Gardner firm has provided great service to the municipality over the years, and the contract being considered with Campbell simply reflects the fact that he has opened a new practice. The agreement will enable city government to retain a person familiar with its operations while still acknowledging the key role the Gardner family has played.
“We have the utmost respect for Mr. John Gardner Sr. and the Gardner law firm and appreciate their service to this city,” Jones stated, adding that she also was speaking on behalf of the commissioners. “The late Mr. Carroll Gardner and Mr. John Gardner Sr. have provided great service to the city for many years.
Campbell launched his practice in February and has been in a new office at 235 E. Independence Blvd. since April 1.
“It was an amicable decision to restructure,” Campbell said of his departure from the Gardner and Gardner firm.
“The contract’s exactly the same,” Jones said of the financial terms of the proposed new agreement compared to the one in place with the Gardner firm.
It calls for Campbell to be paid a monthly fee of $2,500, which amounts to $30,000 on an annual basis. The scope of work to be delivered in return is estimated at 30 hours per month.
And while the city manager said the two contracts for the Gardner and Campbell firms are alike, Campbell did point to one difference that involves the municipality not being charged for legal services on a per-hour basis.
“That’s where the wording has changed,” he said of the new contract to be considered by the commissioners this afternoon.
Campbell, who also serves as town attorney for Dobson, explained that the flat rate allows the municipality to avoid uncertainty and know exactly what its legal services will cost during an upcoming year. “I don’t want to break anybody’s budget,” he said.
However, the proposed contract does provide a stipulation that if additional services are required due to cases of litigation or “similarly complex matters” beyond the basic workload, the city would agree to pay an hourly rate of $150 for those.
The proposed pact also calls for Mount Airy to fund two-thirds of the expenses for Campbell to be a member of the North Carolina Municipal Attorneys Association and to attend continuing-education courses related to municipal law.
“Hugh Campbell has served as city attorney for (a) number of years and this contractual transition will allow the city to retain him as our city attorney,” Jones added Wednesday.
“The city is pleased with the service provided by Mr. Campbell and we look forward to continuing to work with him.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.