Four law firms Thursday morning pitched themselves to the Dunedin City Commission to replace Tom Trask as city attorney.
Trask has served as Dunedin city attorney since 2011. His firm, Trask Daigneault, LLP, is one of the four firms seeking to represent the city –– but this time, Trask isn’t the firm’s candidate for city attorney.
That candidate is Randy Mora, who has served as Indian Rocks city attorney for five years.
Several high-profile cases in the last two years have exposed Trask to criticism, particularly the city’s code enforcement cases, including one viral story where a Dunedin resident was fined $30,000 for uncut grass.
Trask also met backlash for his response to campaign violations committed in 2018 by Mayor Julie Bujalski and Commissioner Jeff Gow. Trask questioned the validity of city ordinances that Bujalski and Gow had violated, extending the issue for a year and a half.
During Mora’s presentation, Commissioner Moe Freaney asked him if there were any cases Trask took on that Mora would have handled differently.
Regarding code enforcement, Mora admitted that there were instances in which he might have made a different decision than Trask or sought more information.
He said that the firm hopes to adapt their services to what the commission is looking for in their next city attorney –– “a more collaborative relationship in policy direction,” according to City Manager Jennifer Bramley.
“Based on the new directions you’re looking to go in, I may be a better fit for you,” he said.
Trask didn’t attend Thursday’s meeting.
The City Commission is required to seek proposals to represent the City from other legal firms once every ten years. They began the process in August 2019, knowing Trask’s contract would expire in April of the following year.
Two Pinellas County firms responded to the initial call for proposals, including Trask Daigneault, LLP. After the other firm was disqualified, the commission decided in March to extend its search to the greater Tampa Bay area, yielding proposals from four qualified firms.
Commissioner Deborah Kynes was the only commissioner who voted not to expand the search. She said “if someone is really unhappy” with Trask, the commission should conduct an evaluation.
Freaney and Bramley insisted the process is simply procedural.
“I thought it was time,” said Freaney in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday. “We should at least take a look and see what’s out there.”
The individuals presented as city attorney candidates from the three other firms are: Nikki Day from Bryant Miller Olive, current Safety Harbor city attorney and Largo assistant city attorney; Julia Mandell from Gray Robinson, former Tampa city attorney; and Sarah Johnston, North Miami Beach city attorney and Surfside assistant town attorney.
While Trask is no longer under contract, he has continued to serve as Dunedin city attorney at an hourly rate.
The Commission will conduct one-on-one interviews with each of the city attorney candidates in the coming weeks, with hopes to select a candidate by September.