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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

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For the week of January 16 - 22, 2002


Good decision

New Mayor Ed Simonís decision to back off on his quest to replace the Ketchum city attorney and hire outside counsel was wise in more ways than one.

First, it averted what could have become a legal battle between his office and the Ketchum City Council. That would have been an inauspicious start all too reminiscent of events that led to Simonís recall from the city council in 1992.

The city asked for an opinion from a Boise law firm and determined it would be illegal under Idaho law for the new mayor to remove the city attorney in favor of a new system without the approval of the city council.

Simonís decision is consistent with his early moves to mend potential rifts with city staff members, particularly the police chief and fire chief, who had campaigned against him during the election.

Retaining experienced city staff members gives the mayor and the new council time to learn to work together without immediate polarization and ill will.

Second, the decision keeps in place a system that has served the city well.

With a good attorney on the payroll, the city has less to worry about when a disgruntled party issues the inevitable threat to sue. Otherwise, even idle threats of lawsuits send members of the city council and the mayor straight to the antacid tablets as they imagine the legal bills mounting and the city budget being consumed by the high costs of a contentious lawsuit.

Without in-house counsel, public officials are immediately on the defensive anytime the word "lawsuit" is breathed.

That can lead to decisions based on penny-pinching rather than the best interests of the city and its inhabitants.

In-house counsel puts the city in a strong position when threatened with a lawsuit. It also assures that city actions have the on-going legal review they need to avert lawsuits in the first place. It means officials can rest easy that they are on solid legal ground when they make decisions. The mayor, members of the city council and the planning and zoning commission donít have to feel guilty because they trigger the billing clock every time they have a legal question.

The public is best served with a system in which an attorney is focusing all their energy on city matters, instead making it only part of what they do.

It was a good way for a new administration to start a new year.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.