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Sparks City Council Meeting 5/10/2021 2:00:00 PM

Meeting Link: https://zoom.us/j/95060093869
Meeting Dial-in #: 1-669-900-6833 Meeting ID: 950 6009 3869

Public Hearing and Action Items Unrelated to Planning and Zoning: 10.1

Title: Public hearing, consideration, and possible approval of retaining Holland and Hart, LLP, as special counsel to represent the City of Sparks and its employees in Forbush vs. City of Sparks, et al., Case No. 3:21-cv-00163-MMD-WGC, before the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.
Petitioner/Presenter: Neil C. Krutz, ICMA-CM, City Manager/Alyson L. McCormick, Assistant City Manager
Recommendation: Staff recommends City Council approve retaining Holland and Hart to represent the City and its employees in Forbush vs. City of Sparks, et al.
Financial Impact: If City Council approves retaining Holland and Hart as special counsel, the City will be obligated to pay Holland and Hart legal fees. These fees are billed by the hour, and the hourly rate varies based on the person performing the work. The total financial impact will depend on how the case progresses.
Business Impact (Per NRS 237):
    
A Business Impact Statement is not required because this is not a rule.
Agenda Item Brief:

Sparks Police Officer George Forbush recently sued the City of Sparks, City Manager Neil Krutz, Assistant City Manager John Martini, and Human Resources Director Mindy Falk, alleging that discipline that was imposed on him violated his rights under the First Amendment. This agenda item gives the City Council the opportunity to hold the public hearing required by the Sparks City Charter and retain Holland and Hart, LLP, as special counsel to defend the City, Mr. Krutz, Mr. Martini, and Ms. Falk in the action.



Background:

In mid-2020, the City received information from the public that Sparks Police Officer George Forbush had posted certain material on the social media platform Twitter. Through the Internal Affairs Division of Sparks Police Department, the City investigated the allegations regarding Officer Forbush's Tweets. Ultimately, the City disciplined  Officer Forbush for violating Sparks Administrative Rules, Civil Service Regulations, and Sparks Police Department general orders. 

On April 8, 2021, Officer Forbush filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, naming the City, City Manager Neil Krutz, Assistant City Manager John Martini, and Human Resources Director Mindy Falk as defendants. Officer Forbush alleges the defendants violated his First Amendment rights by disciplining him for policy violations in connection with his Tweets.



Analysis:

Section 3.055 of the Sparks City Charter allows the City Council to employ attorneys to serve as special counsel after holding a public hearing. The City Attorney often represents Sparks Police Officers in other matters, and trust is essential to that representation. In order to preserve that trust between Sparks Police Officers and the City Attorney, staff recommends retaining special counsel to defend the City and its employees against this action brought by a Sparks Police Officer.

Holland and Hart, LLP provides the City with advice and representation regarding various employment and labor matters, and Holland and Hart is already familiar with many of the City's policies and procedures. Holland and Hart also employs experienced litigation attorneys and attorneys who specialize in employment law and constitutional law. Given this experience, staff recommends retaining Holland and Hart as special counsel for this matter.

If City Council follows staff's recommendation, Holland and Hart will bill the City monthly for legal services provided in this matter. As is customary for private law firms, Holland and Hart's fees are based on hourly rates, and the hourly rate differs depending on the attorney or support staff person who performs the work. Hourly rates are typically adjusted on January 1 of each year. The proposed legal team and current hourly rates are as follows:

Name Position Hourly Rate
S. Jordan Walsh Associate $330.00
Matt Cecil Of Counsel $440.00
Dora V. Lane Partner $440.00
  Other Partners $330.00-$870.00
  Other Attorneys $205.00-$825.00
  Other Service Providers $70.00-$705.00

Particularly at this early stage of the litigation, it is impossible to know how many hours Holland and Hart will need to spend representing the City in this matter. As a result, the total cost of retaining Holland and Hart as special counsel is unclear, but choosing a different law firm would be unlikely to provide additional clarity in this area. In light of Holland and Hart's experience--with both the City and the relevant areas of the law--staff recommends that City Council approve retaining Holland and Hart as special counsel.



Alternatives:

1. City Council may approve retaining Holland and Hart as special counsel to represent the City of Sparks and its employees in Forbush vs. City of Sparks, et al.

2. City Council may decline to retain Holland and Hart as special counsel and give further direction to the City Manager.



Recommended Motion:

I move to approve retaining Holland and Hart, LLP, as special counsel to represent the City of Sparks and its employees in Forbush vs. City of Sparks, et al., Case No. 3:21-cv-00163-MMD-WGC, before the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.