Gilich proposes sweeping changes to city’s legal representation

Continuing his push to stem rising legal expenses, Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich will ask the City Council Tuesday to approve eight contracts for specialized legal work.

The agreements will establish fee schedules for outside counsel when, and if needed. Authorizing standby legal assistance will enable Biloxi to protect its interest and help reduce rising legal bills, which averaged $1.5 million a year over the last three fiscal years, Gilich said.

“We are asking the City Council to authorize us to engage specialized legal assistance only when needed,” explained Gilich. “We want to make sure we have the best legal representation at the best possible price.”

In his first couple weeks in office, Gilich hired former Mayor Gerald Blessey as City Attorney, and charged him with developing a strategy to reduce legal expenses.  Blessey suggested the city conduct a Request for Proposals process for specialized outside counsel to assist only when necessary.

“This gives us the opportunity to have expert outside counsel on standby at a reasonable rate,” Blessey said. “We think it’s prudent to line up, in advance, the help we might need at the best fixed hourly rates.”

Earlier this month, the city accepted proposals from nearly three dozen attorneys, who responded to a request for proposals the city issued for qualified legal representation to cover a potential field of nearly three dozen public policy areas. Those areas being addressed on Tuesday include acquisition of easements, banking and finance issues, bankruptcy, business litigation, contracts, creation of non-profits for economic development, debt collection,  general litigation, planning,  real-estate issues, tidelands and worker’s compensation.

On the agenda Tuesday are agreements with the following law firms and attorneys: Byrd & Wiser, Corban Gunn, Currie Johnson Griffin & Myers, Stanton J. Fountain Jr., Wessler Law Firm, James K. Wetzel & Associates, Wheeler & Wheeler, and Wise Carter Child & Caraway.

Blessey added, “We still have the remaining proposals under consideration and may later present more firms to the menu of specialties for the Council to consider.”

Attorney Michael Collins would continue to work regularly with Blessey on day-to-day matters, and the firm Page, Mannino, Peresich and McDermott would continue to handle certain cases according to previously approved resolutions.

The mayor said, “We anticipate a lower overall annual cost because we plan to manage this very closely and be prudent in the way we handle current and new legal issues.”
See the resolution from the agenda Tuesday