Franklin County commissioners are still unsure how they will move forward with legal representation, but they are covered until a final decision is made.
On Monday Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer and First District Commissioner Tim Brinker said they have received informational packets from five local law firms seeking to fill the legal responsibilities of the county after the retirement of full-time county counselor Mark Vincent effective March 1.
Brinker says all of the applicants have a physical presence in Franklin County and the commission may decide to hire more than one firm based on individual needs instead of just one person to handle all legal issues.
“We will review how much expertise they have in each particular area,” Brinker said. “We are pleased to have so many quality firms who have shown interest. Hopefully we can get it down to two or three.”
Brinker said the following firms responded to the county’s request for qualifications:
• Becker, Robinson, Brinkman, and Fulford, LLC — Union;
• Zick, Voss, Politte, and Richardson, PC — Washington;
• Hansen, Stierberger, Downard, Schroeder & Head, LLC — Union;
• Joseph Purschke and Mary Zastrow — Union; and
• Lewis Rice, LLC — Washington.
By privatizing the legal services the county plans to eliminate the full-time county counselor position created in 2012 and its $130,000 annual salary.
“Most counties we’ve researched have contracted legal services,” Brinker said. “We are going into this selection with all due diligence and not rushing into anything.”
Brinker said the decision to piecemeal the legal services may lead to significant savings to taxpayers and will allow the county to hire firms with specific expertise.
Griesheimer said the biggest legal issues the county deals with are personnel matters.
“We have to deal with those issues in the right way or we are really going to have problems,” Griesheimer said. “If this new system doesn’t work out, we can always go back to a full-time counselor.”
Griesheimer added when Vincent was hired in 2012, the county was in the midst of several lawsuits and was in the process of creating the municipal court. The daily meetings with legal counsel made it more convenient to have that person in the government center full time.
For the time being, the county has reached an agreement with Joe Purschke to step into the head county counselor role with the help of assistants Mary Zastrow, Steven White, and Caleb Reed.
In addition to overall legal counsel on county business, contracts and planning and zoning issues, Purschke and Zastrow are the prosecutors for the county municipal court.
Purschke, who has served as assistant county counselor for many years, has recently filed for the office circuit judge in Division IV. If he is elected, he would have to step away from all other legal services.