PORT RICHEY — Just weeks after firing its city manager, the City Council is now dealing with the resignation of its legal adviser.
At the council meeting Tuesday evening, City Attorney Michael Brannigan gave 30 days notice that the Hernando-based Hogan Law Firm no longer will be representing Port Richey.
Brannigan, who works for Hogan Law and handles the city's matters, said the resignation came in response to the council kicking off a bidding process as its contract with Hogan Law is soon to expire.
The firm chose not to participate in that bidding process, he said.
"We are not really in a position to bid against ourselves," Brannigan said.
Port Richey pays a monthly retainer to Hogan Law of $125 an hour for 25 hours, which can add up to $4,125 a month. Hours worked beyond that are billed at $185 an hour, until the city reaches 35 hours in a month, after which the hourly rate reaches $200.
Council members said nothing during the meeting in response to Brannigan's resignation, but were pleased with 26 responses to the city's request for bids, which are due by March 25.
After the meeting, council members expressed excitement that so many attorneys and firms have expressed interest. Hogan Law made one of only two bids the last time the city sought an attorney nearly three years ago, council member Steve O'Neill said.
"I am just really excited to see so much interest," O'Neill said.
During a special meeting called last week, O'Neill blasted the city's contract with fired City Manager Ellen Posivach, which could bring her a $90,000 payout, including severance pay, unused sick and vacation time, and compensatory time. Hogan Law took part in negotiating the contract.
O'Neill looked at Hogan Law owner Thomas Hogan at last week's meeting and said it was "not a good contract for the city." But on Tuesday, O'Neill tempered his comments.
"This isn't a time for finger pointing," he said. "I think it's always good for the city to see what's out there."
One resident saw it another way, calling on the council before Brannigan's announcement to fire the city attorney over statements he made in the media that he saw "no argument" for not giving Posivach the full $90,000 payout.
"With friends like this, who needs enemies?" resident David Salheim said of Brannigan. "Take a walk is what I hope you are going to tell him."
After the meeting, Brannigan said Hogan Law's refusal to take part in the bidding process is a business decision, saying it's an expensive process the firm already won before.
Brannigan also envisioned angry members of the public echoing Salheim's commentary should a public bidding process ensue, and said he and his firm wanted no part in that.
Should the city rescind its request for bids, Brannigan said he and the firm would be happy to continue to serve the city.
But it appears the council plans to move forward, so Brannigan pledged help after the 30 days if needed, until a replacement is named.
"It's a shame," he said. "I have been the one in the trenches, so I don't want people to feel I am leaving them in a lurch."