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TMCNet:  Changing of the guard

[February 28, 2013]

Changing of the guard

Feb 28, 2013 (Newton Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- For more than a decade, Newton City Attorney Darrin Hamilton served the city. Tomorrow, his contract will be terminated. To replace him, the Newton City Council hired Brick Gentry P.C., a Des Moines law firm.

Representing the city will be Matt Brick, who has been with the firm since 1998 and became a partner in 2005. Brick said the firm worked as city attorney for a number of cities before, and the transition period has been smooth.

"The transition was great," Brick said. "The outgoing city attorney is great. We have been emailing back and forth. We represent a lot of counties around the state. It's very typical that cities post (about these) opportunities. We lucked out and it was quite an honor." Brick said other communities' city attorneys were not as cooperative, and he appreciates Hamilton's cooperation. City Administrator Robert Knabel has been in contact with Brick and heard nothing but praise about him.

"Their firm was selected and he was the lead attorney for the process," Knabel said. "He comes highly recommended and we are looking forward to his service." Brick's biography on the firm's website states: "He (Brick) specializes in labor and employment matters, as well as the representation of municipalities. Matt represents clients in state and federal court, arbitration and mediation, as well as administrative agencies. As part of his focus, Matt also works with employers on union-related matters, such as unfair labor practice charges and negotiating collective-bargaining agreements." "Prior to joining the firm, Matt worked for Vinson & Elkins, LLP in Dallas, Texas, defending and advising clients in a wide range of labor and employment issues. Matt has extensive civil litigation experience defending employees, employers and public entities on matters such as wrongful termination, discrimination disputes, wage and hours cases and a variety of other statutory and common-law claims." Brick said there are a few issues that still have to be worked out, but he does not predict any problems with the proposed restrictions on meeting time with the council. However, not everyone agreed.

During the last Newton City Council meeting, Dennis Julius -- who also voted against the termination of Hamilton's contract -- questioned whether or not the approved three hour time slot with the new attorney to discuss the city council's agenda would be enough time.

Brick said he thought that, depending on the council's agenda, three hours could be enough time. He said he sometimes had a 10-minute conversation with other cities regarding their agendas.

He also said there will be times when more time may be required.

Brick said he was contacted by Knabel shortly after the council approved of his then- proposed contract, and they are still discussing if he needs to be present at both city council meetings each month.

Knabel informed the Daily News that currently, Brick will attend both meetings per month, but that may change in upcoming months.

Brick Gentry P.C. Law Firm has been in business for about 40 years. According to the firm's website, its objective is to "provide outstanding personal service to help our clients achieve success." The termination of Hamilton's contract was based on Knabel's research, and was requested by the council. He found that, in comparison to other city attorneys' pay, Newton paid more.

Although the termination of Hamilton's contract is expected to cost the city $39,000, it is projected to save about $44,000. He will also receive a severance pay package of $71,349.62.

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at mshepard@newtondailynews.com.

___ (c)2013 the Newton Daily News (Newton, Iowa) Visit the Newton Daily News (Newton, Iowa) at www.newtondailynews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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