At Tuesday's council meeting, Councilman Alex Perrone said, "We've been paying consulting fees from January to present date (totaling) $26,000. I think we need more help as our city grows, so does the necessity for our (Redevelopment Agency) department and other legal areas.
"We should start thinking of bringing in an assistant attorney. I think $26,000 and whatever we paid Mr. Rood for that extra time involved in these consultations would pay for a part-time city attorney."
Perrone noted that El Centro has two city attorneys.
"We need a lot of legal counsel and I think Mr. Rood needs help," he said.
Councilman Victor Carrillo asked Perrone if he wanted the city manager to publish a request for proposals. Perrone said that would be a good idea.
City Manager Richard Inman wanted to know if the council wants to submit requests for the city attorney position as well as an assistant position.
Renison said the council should first take action to hire an assistant attorney while seated as the Redevelopment Agency.
Then he added, "But we need to visit both and like I say, this is no criticism of Mr. Rood. I just think that we are digging ourselves a hole financially here."
During Tuesday's meeting Rood said, "I think what you also need probably is a report on what those fees included, what kinds of services those were provided for. We have been involved in some litigation as you know. I think a lot of those fees involve that litigation. We can get a report for you that breaks that down. And I think that it is time for you to review the entire relationship you have with the city attorney."
In the first months of this year and late last year, the city settled major lawsuits filed by Calexico landowner Raul Estrada, and the Bravo Partners, a coalition of east Calexico landowners, among other lawsuits.
Perrone said Wednesday that a part-time RDA attorney would help ease the city attorney's workload, save the city money and allow the agency to operate without having to track down expensive consultants in Orange County.
On Wednesday night, Rood said the numbers the council discussed on Tuesday were not accurate.
"Since January 2002 they've paid out approximately $17,000 from both city and RDA for consulting; of that, approximately $10,486 was paid by the city for costs in litigation in two cases that they are handling.
"The actual figure laid out by the RDA is $7,400," he said
The cases were the "Bravo Rodiles" case and a smaller case involving a land dispute downtown, according to Rood.
After hearing of Rood's comments this morning, Renison said the council still plans to look into hiring a part-time attorney to handle redevelopment issues.
"It's a healthy way of doing business," he said.
He added: "You don't just arbitrarily make changes. We need to have a good handle on it."
Regarding the comparison to El Centro's attorney situation, Rood said this morning, "The city of El Centro budgets $448,307 for this year for legal services and $75,000 for other legal."
In comparison, the numbers reviewed by the City Council on Tuesday had Calexico's budget for legal counsel pegged at $138,500.
>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org