For many weeks, the offices of the Voice of Muscatine have been filled with questions regarding municipal government and how certain parts work. One of the most prominent questions has been, why is our city attorney from a law firm in Des Moines? Muscatine’s city attorney is Mathew Brick of Brick Gentry Law Firm in West Des Moines, IA.
Several years ago, when the Muscatine city attorney retired and the city council, mayor, and city administrator began the process for replacement, “the city used the Request For Proposal (RFP) process to conduct interviews to select a replacement,” said City Administrator Greg Mandsager. Municipal law is a specialty for attorneys, and “dealing with the civil laws of a municipality requires a specialist.” Using the RFP process, Muscatine selected Brick Gentry.
The City of Muscatine relies on three offices for legal services. Brick Gentry handles civil litigation, human resource law, civic code, and enforcement law, while Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostegren serves as the city’s criminal attorney. The firm of Dorsey and Whitney serves as bond council.
“Our attorney fees are an annual budgeted expense,” said Mandsager. For the 2015 fiscal year, the amended general fund budget for the City of Muscatine allocated $76,000 for legal services. “We budget for these expenses; however, if legal work is needed from a capital or enterprise project, those legal services are paid for out of those budgets and not the general fund,” said Muscatine Finance Director Nancy Lueck. “The numbers aren’t officially completed yet for the 2015 fiscal year, but the general fund legal expenditures appear to be coming in at around $77,000, just slightly over budget.”
Mandsager said, “Other cities of our size also utilize council that are not local. Burlington, Clinton, and other cities of our size use firms from Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities, respectively.” Mandsager added, “Utilizing external firms also limits the risk of having a conflict of interest for the city attorney.” Brick Gentry bills the City of Muscatine $150/hr.