Marathon City Council held a special call meeting on Tuesday to discuss its legal representation. At the end of the brief meeting, they directed Marathon City Manager to set up interviews with two choices — the Islamorada firm of Vernis & Bowling and attorney Nina Boniske — to provide transitional legal services. The council will make a choice between the two at the meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 10.
Boniske, former counsel for the Village of Islamorada who also provided legal counsel to the City of Marathon in its infancy, has told one council member she would charge $15,000 per month, plus travel fees from Miami and other expenses. Vernis & Bowling — represented by attorneys Scott Black and Dirk Smits at recent meetings — has offered to charge $140 per hour.
The transition period is expected to last no longer than six months.
The council debated the motion’s haste.
“I’ve talked to a dozen attorneys and the International Municipal Lawyers Association and it’s boiled down to two interested parties so far. We can open up this process for another 30 days, but I don’t think that is the will of the council,” said Councilman Dan Zieg.
“We’re talking about a temporary job,” said Councilman Mark Senmartin.
“There’s no rush. We know where we are going,” said Councilman Richard Keating, the only “no” vote on the motion.
Senmartin had questioned the propriety of considering Vernis & Bowling because the firm has also expressed interest in the permanent position as the city attorney.
The council has yet to decide whether it will go with an in-house attorney or contract with another law firm. The council has indicated a wish to sever ties with its current representation, Gray Robinson law firm, as soon as possible and has questioned the fees they’ve been charged over the past year. City Manager Mike Puto said he is carefully monitoring staff’s interaction with the attorneys at Gray Robinson to keep the charges down in the interim.