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Council hires Buford law firm

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
A process server leaves notices for Forest Park mayor and council members during Saturday's special called meeting. Mayor David Lockhart had the man removed by a Forest Park police officer.

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats A process server leaves notices for Forest Park mayor and council members during Saturday's special called meeting. Mayor David Lockhart had the man removed by a Forest Park police officer.

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

FOREST PARK — Council members voted unanimously Saturday afternoon to hire a Buford law firm to represent the city in a suit filed by attorneys they fired May 6.

The noon special called meeting was delayed 12 minutes as the board waited for Ward 3 Councilwoman Maudie McCord to arrive. Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord didn't attend the meeting because she is traveling, said Mayor David Lockhart.

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Photo by Kathy Jefcoats Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart (l) and Parker

Lord is not named in the suit and voted against firing Mack and Harris, the Forest Park firm that has represented the city since 2006.

Once McCord arrived, a process server for Mack and Harris asked to approach the board to serve members with notice of the lawsuit, which was filed May 20. Lockhart stopped him as he approached the dais and asked a Forest Park police officer to remove the man from chambers.

Before the officer neared him, the server left the papers for McCord, Lockhart, Ward 4 Councilwoman Latresa Akins and Ward 1 Councilman Tommy Smith on the work session table.

"Consider yourselves served," said the man, who was then escorted from chambers by the police officer.

"If that's the way you see it," said Lockhart.

City Manager John Parker said after the meeting that it was the second attempt at serving the mayor and council members with notice of the suit. Parker said the process server left the notices in their mailboxes at City Hall earlier in the week.

There was little discussion in making the decision to hire Carothers and Mitchell Law Firm. Lockhart said the Buford-based firm was recommended by Fincher, Denmark and Williams, the attorneys appointed to replace Mack and Harris.

Council members reviewed biographical and legal background on Richard Carothers for about 15 minutes before voting to hire him at $150 an hour to represent them in the suit.

"It seems pretty self-explanatory to me," said Smith.

Akins wanted to know if other firms were explored.

"They're the only ones I'm bringing to Council," said Lockhart. "This was just a quick decision. I've asked other attorneys about them and they have a good reputation."

Parker said the decision could be made without putting it out for bids because legal representation is considered a professional service.

Lockhart said the city is getting a bargain. He added that it was important to hire a firm without political ties to Forest Park.

"The hourly rate would be substantial but he has agreed to represent us at the same rate as we were paying Mack and Harris and we are paying Fincher, Denmark and Williams," he said. "And they are not so much tied into local politics."

Council members will meet in another special called meeting Wednesday to possibly take another vote to terminate Mack and Harris. Lockhart expressed hope Monday night that the board would vote unanimously to terminate the firm and thereby possibly end the litigation.

Robert Mack and Joe Harris contend in the Superior Court filing that they were terminated illegally under the city charter. Chief Judge Deborah Benefield set a June 3 date in the case. Lockhart said Carothers will begin work on the city's defense immediately after Saturday's vote to be prepared for that hearing.