East Ridge City Council Names Hal North As Interim City Attorney

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The East Ridge City Council, at a special called meeting on Saturday afternoon, named Hal North as interim city attorney on a three-month trial basis.

He will be paid a flat $7,500 fee with no other charges.

Councilman Marc Gravitt said attorney North had called him about the open position.  He said "for full disclosure" he had done some business with attorney North including appraisals.

Both he and Vice Mayor Jim Bethune highly praised attorney North, saying he has excellent credentials.

Mayor Brent Lambert and Councilmen Larry Sewell both said they knew nothing of attorney North.

Mayor Lambert said he was taken aback because he said Vice Mayor Bethune had told him Friday he wanted to name former East Ridge City Attorney Cris Helton to the post. 

Council members Gravitt, Bethune and Manning voted in favor. Councilman Sewell paused for a time and then said yes. Mayor Lambert abstained.

The council had voted 3-2 on Thursday night to fire John Anderson as city attorney. He had held the post since 2008.

Attorney Helton departed and attorney Anderson arrived during the tenure of Mayor Mike Steele. 

Vice Mayor Bethune said he earlier asked attorney Anderson to serve in the part-time position for a flat $7,500 per month, but he declined.  Attorney Anderson and his law firm charged the city as much as $158,000 per year.

Attorney North will represent East Ridge in Criminal Court on Monday on a motion to delay a trial involving the Superior Creek Lodge. Councilman Gravitt said a trial is set on Wednesday and the lawyer for the lodge wanted it passed.

Vice Mayor Bethune said he interviewed attorney North for about 45 minutes after his name was recommended to him by Councilman Gravitt.

He said he has been president of the Chattanooga Bar Association, Big Brothers and Big Sisters Association, the Rotary Club and the Crime Stoppers. He is a deacon at First Presbyterian Church.

The member of the firm of Chambliss, Bahner and Stophel won the 2011 President's Award from the president of the Tennessee Bar Association.  

Councilman Gravitt said attorney North is familiar with municipal law since he is the special counsel for the city of Chattanooga.

"We would be fortunate to have him," he said.

He said attorney North is not asking for any contract and, after three months, the council can decide if it wants to keep him.   

Councilman Sewell said he would like to look into the idea of having a full-time city attorney. But Mayor Lambert said that would be expensive since the attorney would likely require a staff "unless he answers the phone for himself."

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