St. Pete Beach Considers Attorney Contract

Less than a month after firing its city manager, St. Pete Beach may also find itself in the market for a new attorney.

Mike Davis will retire from Bryant Miller Olive, the St. Pete Beach city attorney, affective June 30. This means that the city will get a new contract with Bryant Miller Olive, but the commissioners stopped short of approving the new contract. Both Mayor Maria Lowe and District Three Commissioner Greg Premer said they supported getting bids for attorneys.

For the firm’s part, Susan Churuti, whom Bryant Miller Olive designated as Davis’s successor, outlined her conflicts of interest and laid out her inabilities to serve the city as accurately as another attorney.

“My expertise is really not in municipal law,” Churuti said. “You have to decide if we’re the appropriate firm to take you forward to the next step.”

Although Churuti said Bryant Miller Olive was not terminating the contract and was “prepared to go forward,” she told commissioners they should decide whether or not to continue the contract.

“We will help you write an RFP for a new city attorney, if you wish,” Churuti said.

“I almost feel like Miss Churuti doesn’t even want the job,” resident Deborah Schechner said. “She’s put so many obstacles up there.”

The commission voted to table the issue until its next meeting, in deference to the as-of-that-point-undecided commissioner who will serve District Two until the special election on August 26.

Mayor Maria Lowe raised the issue of getting competitive bids for the city attorney position.

“The contract with the attorney hasn’t been bid since 2008,” Lowe said.

Churuti said the firm would not bid outside the contract presented at the Tuesday night meeting.

“This is our contract. If you wan to agree to it, that’s fine,” Churuti told her, “but we’re not going to bid something different…We’re not going to compete. We’re going to give you this contract.”

“I think we ought to have a full panel [of commissioners] before we decide,”said District Three Commissioner Greg Premer. Lowe echoed that thought, saying,“Once we get a fifth member, we’ll explore that.” The commission will discuss whether or not to retain Bryant Miller Olive at the May 27 meeting.

According to Churuti, the city’s charter mandates that the city designate a person rather than a firm as the city attorney.

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