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St. Pete Beach moves fast to hire attorney

ST. PETE BEACH — City Commission members made quick work of deciding how to proceed after city attorney Ralf Brookes quit. They offered the job to Michael Davis on Thursday.

Brooks resigned without explanation after just three months in the position.

Both Brookes and Davis had been finalists when Timothy Driscoll resigned after five years.

The selection process became controversial and politically charged after arguments broke out about how Brookes was hired. Former Mayor Ward Friszolowski and current Mayor Mike Finnerty thought Davis should have been offered the position.

Most commission members seemed weary of going through the process again during a special meeting held to discuss the opening. Davis, who served as the city attorney in St. Petersburg for nearly 20 years, seemed the logical choice.

"I can't see the commission, right now, going through the lengthy interviews or doing that process again," said Commissioner Alan Halpern.

Davis was out of town Friday and unavailable for comment.

He agreed to attend a meeting Monday to discuss his contract, City Manager Mike Bonfield said.

Brookes' resignation came as the city is entrenched in legal battles concerning land development regulations.

The city has entered into a settlement with the Save Our Little Village political action group that resulted in a special election scheduled for June 3. The election will be on the group's proposed comprehensive plan amendment.

If approved, the city would be the first in the state to adopt a comprehensive plan created by a political group.

Should Davis accept the job, he would be the third attorney to advise the commission on the process, along with Brookes and attorney Thomas W. Reese, who was brought on as special counsel when SOLV initially filed suit.

Commissioner Linda Chaney questioned whether Davis would be able to handle the SOLV proceedings this far into the process. She suggested that Reese be retained for the remainder of the process, but the rest of the commission seemed unwilling to hire another attorney to work alongside Davis.

"I think he is going to be in over his head," Chaney said. "I guess we just give him a try and move forward."

Finnerty, who was the only member of the previous commission to select Davis as his first choice, said he was confident in Davis' ability.

"I think with the experience Davis has and the personality he's got and the professionalism … he will jump right in," Finnerty said.

Concerns about Davis' fees were also expressed at the meeting.

Davis has expressed flexibility in his fee schedule and would likely be covered by the city's $5,200 monthly budget for attorney fees, Bonfield said.

Nick Johnson can be reached at

nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.

St. Pete Beach moves fast to hire attorney 05/10/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 11, 2008 1:36pm]
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