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Mabton Council meets prospective city attorney

MABTON - The Mabton City Council got a chance to meet a prospective candidate for the city attorney position at last night's council meeting.

Phil Lamb, a Yakima attorney and current city attorney for the city of Toppenish, stopped by for a meet-and-greet with the council members. He told them that he doesn't know any members of the council, just what he reads in the newspapers.

"You guys get some coverage every once in a while," he quipped.

Lamb has practiced in Yakima for the past 30 years and has dealt heavily with real estate, business and probate law. He served as hearing examiner for the city of Yakima and Yakima County from 1986 to 2002 and was the city attorney for Union Gap from 2002 to 2006. Lamb established a private practice in Yakima in 1983.

Lamb made it clear to council that he thinks whoever the council hires should have the full support of the mayor and the council.

Councilman Mario Martinez asked how much time Lamb would need to put in to help straighten out the mess the city is in.

Lamb told Martinez he wouldn't call what the city is experiencing a mess but rather something that happens to small town governments every once in a while.

He told the council that former city attorney Jack Maxwell was a tough act to follow, noting he spent a little over eight hours a month doing city business and only charged $90 an hour.

"Mr. Martinez, you're looking at probably 10 hours a month at $175 an hour," Lamb said, looking relaxed with legs crossed and hands behind his back.

He did say the council could probably find someone who would do it for $125 an hour.

Martinez asked Lamb if the 10 hours would include council meetings and Lamb said it would.

Martinez indicated he thought Lamb might charge less money for when he was at council meetings and more money when he's doing more heavy work.

"Some people might suggest sitting next to you guys might require a surcharge," Lamb joked.

Although any terms would need to be negotiated, Lamb said he would require mileage reimbursement as well. Lamb lives in Yakima and a round-trip to Mabton would take approximately 45 minutes.

Lamb also told the council he is not interested in coming to work for the city of Mabton unless the council, mayor and Lamb can share some common goals on progress. Lamb said he would only commit for 90 days and after that time, if either side was unhappy, he would leave with no strings attached.

Lamb then asked the council some questions, most notably what they wanted in a city attorney.

As a whole the council indicated they wanted someone who would speak up and not just say maybe. Mayor Velva Herrera said she wanted someone who would work with both the council and the mayor.

Lamb told the council that his style is more vocal and hands on. He showed this towards the end of the meeting when a citizen had a question about getting meeting minutes.

The citizen was told she could stop by City Hall the next day to get them.

"It looks like you want to say something," Herrera said to Lamb.

Lamb said that most city governments provide these types of documents at their city council meetings, and it would be easier for all parties involved if the documents were made available.

He then also noted to the mayor that the citizen was out of order for speaking after the public comment time was over and that the mayor could have not responded if she so chose.

The council seemed impressed with Lamb but wanted to spend some one-on-one time with him before a decision is made on whether to hire him.

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