BOC questioning county attorney candidates

— Whoever said the wheels of government and bureaucracy move slowly probably wasn’t talking about Clayton County’s search for a new attorney, but it wouldn’t be that far-fetched of a description.

The county commission interviewed three candidates Tuesday to be the permanent replacement for former County Attorney Michael Smith — who resigned two years ago. Chairman Jeff Turner said more candidates could be interviewed in the coming weeks.

Attorney Jack Hancock has been filling in on an interim basis since Smith left June 7, 2011.

“We’re just trying to do more of that work in-house,” said Turner, who took office in January. “Jack is the interim and he still has ties to his law firm, and we wanted to get somebody who would have more time to allocate to the county.”

This is actually the second time this year that the commission has interviewed candidates for the position. Turner said some candidates were interviewed around March but commissioners “weren’t really getting the type of experience that we were looking for.”

Hancock is not a candidate for the permanent position and there isn’t a final list of candidates. Commissioners are looking for an attorney with experience in civil and government law, as well as contracts.

The commission wasn’t getting what it wanted because the $134,000 annual salary for the position was not enough to get better candidates, Turner said. So the commission raised the pay to $150,000 shortly after those initial interviews were conducted.

“That’s an important position and in order to get the best qualified people for the position, we changed the salary on it — we had to bump the salary up on it,” said Turner.

There is no definitive timetable to hire a county attorney so it’s not clear how much longer Hancock will have to serve as the interim lawyer. However, a decision is not expected to be eminent. It’s not intended to take a long time either.

“We want to move expeditiously, but we also want to move cautiously,” Turner said. “We want to make sure whoever we select is a good fit for our county.”