Friday, December 08, 2023

City renews contract with Lake City Law

Staff Writer | October 29, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — After tabling a contract renewal with Lake City Law at an early October council meeting, councilmembers voted to renew the contract Oct. 18.

Three weeks ago, when the contract renewal for legal services was originally considered, mayoral candidate Jeremy Grimm presented conditions he described as a liability, and urged the council to pause the renewal.  

During the Oct. 4 meeting’s public forum, Grimm highlighted Idaho Code 67-8205, which requires government entities that adopt development impact fee ordinances to also establish a Development Impact Fee Advisory Committee that files periodic reports at least annually. 

Grimm said his research found only one meeting was held the last four years. He contended that not holding these meetings violates Idaho Code and puts the city at risk.

“Your legal team and your city administrator are the ones advising you,” Grimm said at the time. “If I recall correctly, the last time I brought this up, the city administrator said, ‘There is no problem, I’ve checked with legal.’ If I’m incorrect in any of this, I sincerely offer my apologies to [Jennifer] Stapleton and Lake City Law, but I think if you check records and check Idaho Code, you will find that there is something amiss and I would ask you to really consider this issue I’ve brought to you for the third time now, before you renew any contract with Lake City Law.”

However, Grimm’s statements regarding Lake City Law’s associations were incorrect, according to city staff. At last week’s meeting, Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton made a correction to Grimm’s statements — Lake City Law has only provided legal counsel to the city since late 2020, meaning the firm has never previously advised the city about the subject at hand.

“It in fact was not Lake City Law,” she said. “It was Will Herrington. He was our attorney in … 2019 and into 2020. So we actually brought on Lake City Law after an RFQ process and council appointed them in, I believe, the second quarter of 2020.”

Stapleton said navigating the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges that impacted the intended process, but plans to reestablish a steady process are already set in motion.

“We are planning on convening the Impact Fee Advisory Committee towards the end of this year,” she said. “We will be scheduling that probably late next month.”

Andrew Doman, the attorney present for the meeting, said there were three concerns raised during the earlier discussion. They were: Whether the city had obtained accurate legal advice over the makeup of the committee, whether the city was in compliance with meeting requirements of the statute, and whether the city had any liability for noncompliance.

“The Planning and Zoning Commission, which serves as the Development Impact Fee Advisory Committee, has met on a regular basis,” Doman said. “As Jennifer advised, both the Planning and Zoning Commission, the council and the mayor have been apprised of the content and the funding for the various items that are part and parcel of those impact fees.”

Doman said the circumstances of the last four years have created challenges for the city, but plans to recover from those impacts are in the works. 

“I think that in substance, yes, we didn't have the meetings,” the attorney said. “I think there were some exigencies that were pushing that in terms of COVID and what's happened with the plans. Were we in compliance for the last two years? No. Where does that leave you at this point in time? I'm not here to discuss liability for the city, I think that's a matter that's properly before the council as a matter of executive session … But going forward, I think Jennifer has laid out a plan to make sure that you receive the information and the advice from the advisory committee so that you can move forward with looking at the impact fees, where they're spent, and how the plan is going to be implemented.”

Doman also noted that two members of the Planning and Zoning Commission are council candidates in the November election. While plans to reconvene the advisory council are set for late November, he urged the city to consider the timing of that meeting because the dynamic and composition of the Planning and Zoning Commission could be affected by the election. 

Following discussion, council members unanimously voted to renew the contract with Lake City Law. 

“I really urge staff to move this meeting before the election does occur, and I look forward to seeing the outcome,” Councilor Joel Aispuro said prior to casting his vote. 

Recent Headlines