By Laura Colvin
Kuna Melba News editor
The City of Kuna now has the services of a full time attorney at its disposal.
The city council on Tuesday voted unanimously to extend an offer of employment to Attorney Richard Roats at an annual salary of $77,500 plus benefits, for a total cost of $98,727.44 to the city.
The change takes effect Oct. 1. Roats is currently providing legal services on a contract basis to the city 25 hours per week on at an hourly rate of $75, which totals out to an annual $97,500.00.
As a city employee, Roats will work 40 hours.
In a presentation to the council Tuesday, Roats said an increase in planning and zoning concerns and other issues over the past several months warrant a fulltime legal presence in city offices in order to answer questions and deal with issues as they arise.
Since Roats has already paid his malpractice insurance for the year ahead, Mayor Greg Nelson initially said he was inclined to continue on a contract basis and possibly offer Roats a fulltime city employee position next year.
Council Member Briana Buban-Vonder Haar, however, said she thought it was in the city’s best interest to act now.
“If it’s a difference of only about $1,000 between the two options, but a difference of 25 hours verses 40, hours it seems like it’s a much better deal for the city to have him be an employee,” Buban-Vonder Haar said. “From a value-cost perspective I would endorse having him as an employee.”
Council President Richard Cardoza asked how the city would cover the absence if Roats took two weeks’ vacation as entitled as a city employee, but Roats assured the council he wasn’t likely at any point to take two consecutive vacation weeks, but would be available by phone 27/7 if he did decide to hit the beach for a couple of days.
Cardoza also asked whether Roats as an employee would continue the work he’s currently doing on the LID, or if that work would fall under separate contract.
“My estimation was that work on LID continues,” said Nelson. “It’s not separate unless we get into a lawsuit.”
Although Roats initially suggested he’d like to keep LID work under a separate contract, as it is currently structured, he ultimately agreed any work for the city would be done from a city employee status.
Since the city is essentially creating a new position – legal services until now, whether provided by Roats or a different attorney have been rendered on contract basis – the council also agreed it was appropriate to create a job description.
In addition to salary and benefits, the city will also pay for Roats required continuing education courses. Roats will pay for his own license to practice.