A recent shakeup in the city clerk’s department has led the City of Brandon to eliminate the deputy clerk position to make room for a solicitor.
City manager Scott Hildebrand said the decision was made after a thorough examination of the department, following the recent retirement of longtime city clerk Con Arvisais.
“We feel it makes sense to add a solicitor into our staffing complement,” he said. “There is a significant need across the organization for in-house legal services.”
As part of the department review, an analysis was conducted on the cost of legal fees over the past several years.
“Although it’s a new position, it’s headcount neutral, so there’s no additional cost,” Hildebrand said. The new position, called director of legislative and legal services, will be the new head of the city clerk’s department. Heather Ewasiuk is currently acting city clerk, and it is assumed she will be named the new city clerk. Nathan Peto is acting deputy clerk at the moment, but Hildebrand says Peto will remain as policy analyst.
This isn’t the first time the city will have a lawyer on the payroll — Hildebrand said they had one in the late 1990s, but that person left in 2001.
“For whatever reason, that position … evolved into a more administrative role and kind of got away from the legal aspect,” Hildebrand said. “Given though there might not have been the need back then, like there is now.”
The new city solicitor will be responsible for all departments across the city when it comes to legislative or legal services.
“If we have a legal concern in planning or engineering or operations or bylaw, we now have somebody that will look after that,” he said.
Bylaw court, property transactions and planning/engineering development agreements are all legal issues the new solicitor would be in charge of. The new position will cover municipal legal issues, not labour issues. In the event of a contract dispute and arbitration, the city will continue contract work with labour lawyer Grant Mitchell.
Hildebrand said the new staff member will manage current and future liability risks and will add a “tremendous amount of capacity” and potential for future cost savings within all departments.
“The focus is on municipal legal fees and we forecast this will be cost neutral and even a bit of efficiency,” he said. “This is the time to do it, you can’t do it really when you have a full complement. So when somebody retires, you really gotta take a look at your needs.”
Hildebrand said the city will post for the position this week, with a goal of starting the process as soon as possible.
“We have very capable people in Heather (Ewasiuk) and Nathan (Peto) as well as our election official in place. So we’re comfortable right now, but we’re going to need the horsepower in the future.”
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