For the first time since its inception, the city of Sandy Springs has a new city solicitor.
“It’s the mayor’s responsibility to nominate the solicitor. My nominee is Leslie M. Donaho,” Mayor Rusty Paul said.
At its meeting May 7 at City Springs, the Sandy Springs City Council voted 6-0 to name Donaho and her firm, Donaho Law LLC, as the new city solicitor, effective June 1. She replaces Bill Riley, who has served in the role since Sandy Springs incorporated in December 2005.
Donaho, who will be a full-time solicitor and has a team of three part-time assistant solicitors in April Weeks, Diana Grant and June Sullinger, won the job after having the winning bid following a process in which bidders filed requests for proposals for a one-year contract. Riley was among the five qualified bidders for the job, but the city chose Donaho and her team because it was the best bid in terms of cost.
City Attorney Dan Lee said the efforts to reexamine the city solicitor’s office were not made because Sandy Springs was not satisfied with the job Riley was doing but so the city could find ways to improve the office and possibly save money. Also, city spokeswoman Sharon Kraun said the process was “part of a citywide review of our contracting firms.”
Lee led an evaluation team that includes five other department leaders associated with the municipal court: Police Capt. Jim Fraker, Municipal Court Administrator Cheston Roney, Chief Deputy Court Clerk Brandy Brooks, Finance Director Karen Ellis and Purchasing Manager Charise Glass.
Kraun said Riley billed the city on an hourly rate and had no termed contract.
“One of the factors which drove the decision in favor of Ms. Donaho’s firm is that she proposed a flat fee contract, the only offeror to do so,” she said. “That component, along with her team’s experience in DUI prosecution and diversion treatment programs, led to the evaluation team’s unanimous recommendation.”
The new contract is for $304,000 and will include one full-time city solicitor and two part-time assistant solicitors, including bilingual staff, who will keep regular office hours.
“We are very honored and excited for this opportunity,” Donaho said.
According to city documents, the new contract will save the city $197,500.
The city documents state one way Sandy Springs will save money is by prosecuting in the city’s municipal court the DUI cases that are normally handled by Fulton County. In the past year 190 DUI cases were bound over to Fulton, and moving them to Sandy Springs is expected to save the city $105,000 in costs associated with having officers go to Atlanta to testify in Fulton court.
Also, the city plans to make the municipal court’s office more efficient by taking on the responsibility of each defendant’s discovery entitlement. Under the old system, the practice is to bind over cases when discovery is requested.
That leads defendants and/or their attorneys to seek discovery evidence/material through an open records request, which puts a burden on the city’s department handling those requests. By moving that job to the prosecutor’s office, it will streamline things, city documents state.
Also, under the old system, municipal court appeals to a higher court are handled by the city attorney’s office, but will be shifted to city solicitor’s office to save money and be more efficient. Other improvements expected to be made under the new system include having the city solicitor and his or her staff maintain regular office hours and having an assistant city solicitor who can communicate with all individuals in court, including the 20% of defendants and witnesses who speak Spanish.
Lee gave a presentation on the RFP process, which started in January, during the council’s work session prior to the meeting as a way to give the council information on the plan to bring in a new city solicitor.
Just before the council voted on the new contract at the meeting, District 6 Councilman Andy Bauman, an attorney, asked if any of the part-time assistant city solicitors would work as lawyers in other capacities. Donaho said Weeks will work as a defense attorney but won’t represent any clients in Sandy Springs cases to avoid a conflict of interest.
“Dan, do we have any concerns about that?” Bauman asked Lee, who said no.
In other news, District 2 Councilman John Paulson and artist Sue Carlson, assisted by Mary Paulson, Billie Barnett, unveiled the Sandy Springs Mosaic, a new art piece given to the city and modeled after its logo. Starting in 2015 to coincide with the city’s 10-year anniversary, it was a collaborative effort that included the artist, city officials and the public, who made their own contributions to the project.
“There are well over 7,000 glass tiles in the mosaic,” Paulson said. With a height and width of about 36 by 542 inches and a weight of about 50 pounds, it will be displayed at City Springs’ main lobby.
“It was a symbol of our community because our community actually did it,” Carlson said.
Said Paul, “It was great to watching the community come together and there were literally hundreds of hands involved in this.”