Taft Airport- City Council Hires Non-Biased Attorney

Wednesday, August 3, 2005
City hires attorney for Airport issue
By Doug Keeler
The Taft (CA) Midway Driller

The city is bringing in an outside attorney to see if it can settle a dispute between a development company and airport officials over a proposed 31-home development in Taft. The Taft City Council, after considerable discussion, approved a letter of engagement with attorney Michael Jenkins to handle the issues surrounding the findings by county airport officials that the proposed new housing on East Center Street is incompatible with the Taft Airport.

Jenkins, who conducted the investigation into an auditor’s letter for the city, is also going to work on other issues for the city.

Councilman Randy Miller said he was caught off guard by the proposal to hire Jenkins to work on the airport issue.

The letter of engagement refers only to the cost per hour and contains no mention of the scope of the work or any estimated cost.

That concerned both Miller and Councilman Paul Linder.

“Do we have any cost estimate on what may be involved?” Miller asked. “Normally when we contract for services we have some idea of what we are going to spend.”

Mayor Cliff Thompson said there is no idea yet on how long it might take to sort out the issues, Miller said he was not happy walking into an open-ended contract.

The letter of engagement gives the city the right to end the contract at any time.

“If the costs get out of hand, we can just terminate the contract,” Councilman Craig Noble said.

The city was forced to hire an outside attorney because the city attorney, Kathy Gibson, had to recuse herself from the case because her husband and law partner, John Gibson, is a partner is West Side Development Co. LLC, the developer of the property on East Center Street.

Both Linder and Miller said they were concerned about the extra costs the city is incurring because of the conflict of interest.

He said the city could pay up to 100 hours to get the problem resolved.

Jenkins’ letter said the city would be billed at $225 per hour for partners and $175 per hour for associates.

City manager Becky Napier suggested that the developer pay for the cost of the attorney’s work .

Bob Colson, a partner in West Side Development agreed to pay half the cost of Jenkins’ work on the issue.

Editor’s Note: See previous Taft Airport Story. Also, he who hires the attorney has certain expectations unless I am missing something.