County commissioners on the budget committee discussed hiring a full-time attorney as a staff member and voted to ask current county attorney Randal Boston if he would extend his contract for six months while the county researched the matter.
"This is no reflection on Randy whatsoever. My concern is that Mr. Boston doesn't have enough time to do all of the things we would like done or to get them done as quickly as we need," said 1st District Commissioner Harry Sabine.
Sabine said he thought it was an important time to consider the subject of hiring a full-time staff attorney because the county attorney appointment is usually done every two years in September during the election of officers on the county commission.
"I could check with UT (University of Tennessee) law school, but I would estimate the starting salary for a lawyer just out of law school would be somewhere between $45,000 to $60,000 and we have some in Crossville that would probably do it for a salary in that range. We would need to have a secretary for the attorney and some office space, which we have plenty of here at the courthouse ... I've also entertained the thought that we could go in with the school system and share the attorney, although I don't think Mrs. VanWinkle agrees with the idea," Sabine said.
"Well, I can't speak for the board (BOE). I do have an opinion, but I'm not going to share it now. I'm just here representing the school system," Aarona VanWinkle, director of schools said. She also added that the BOE is under contract with its current attorney until 2012.
"I think it would behoove us to look at the subject," said 4th District Commissioner Allen Foster.
"Well, the one negative is that in doing so, you're going to have an attorney that's new and doesn't have the experience," Sabine said.
"Another drawback, to me, is that there could be a lot of turnover in that position ... I hate to see Randy walk out on some of the big cases," said 7th District Commissioner Mike Harvel.
"I think Mr. Boston would stay on for those cases," Sabine said. "But it is something we need to address."
"I think hiring one (attorney) who's retired might be better," Harvel said.
"I agree," Johnny Presley, 3rd District commissioner said.
"I think we ought to have the county mayor research this while we look at it and have him talk with Randy," said Charles Seiber, 4th District commissioner.
"I think we should explore it, too," said Joe Koester, 5th District commissioner.
"I don't want to be sitting here with no attorney with all the big cases we got going on. We need to look at extending his contract or something," Harvel said.
"I agree with Mike, but we need to look at the option of looking at other attorneys, too," said Jan McNeil, 5th District commissioner.
"A six month extension while the county researches the attorney would be good," Foster said.
"It would make life a lot easier if we had an attorney on staff, right here whenever we need him, but I don't want to be sitting here without one," Harvel said.
Foster then made a motion to have Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey ask county attorney Randal Boston if he would consider a six-month extension of his contract as county attorney while the county looked at the option of hiring a full-time staff attorney.
Harvel supported the motion and it was approved unanimously.
The item is included for discussion on the county commission's agenda for its Sept. 19 meeting. The county commission meets at 6 p.m. in the large courtroom of the Cumberland Coudnty Courthouse. The public is welcome to attend.