HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs City Commissioner Linda Jones voiced her concerns about services the City is receiving from contracted attorney Scott Walker. Jones is frustrated with Walker’s response time to City staff and commissioners as well as his interpretation of what could be challenged as far as the mural ordinance is concerned. Jones dissatisfaction led her to suggest the City hire a second attorney from a different firm to reinterpret Walker’s interpretation of what is legally defensible regarding murals.

Jones penned a letter detailing her concerns saying that “issues are stacking up, therefore the City cannot proceed unless they proceed with writing ordinances, etc. themselves.”

Jones also said the attorney was not prepared on the proposed Bridlewood development presentation of July 14 as he said at that time that “this was just a presentation.” Her third concern was the continued disagreement as to the rights of artists and the citizens. She said citizens have few rights when it comes to the number of mural applications that can be submitted at one time. Her fourth complaint was turnover in Walker’s firm. “I believe we need an attorney with more experience; our staff does not have time to train new attorneys.”

Walker responded to each of Jones’ complaints. Walker pointed out that his firm has worked on over 70 projects for High Springs since January and an additional five special projects. He also said that he has implemented an email address exclusively for High Springs that will go to all of the attorneys involved with the City. Walker said he hoped that would improve communication. In addition, he has given the Commissioners and City staff his cell phone number and suggested that his legal assistant could be contacted in his absence if someone needs to talk to him personally.

In response to the Bridlewood comment, Walker said the presentation was just that and he didn’t believe it was appropriate to get into a lengthy un-noticed discussion about the project, especially since it would eventually come before the City Commission.

Regarding the mural ordinance, he said he is not hired to do what is popular or what even 100 people want to have him do, but instead to respond with an interpretation of the law. “There are people out there who look for cases like this to challenge,” Walker said. “My job is to present an ordinance that will pass constitutional muster to keep the City out of a lawsuit.”

Walker said he has been with the firm for 40 years and his partner for even longer than that. He added that several of his attorneys or staff members have been with the firm for several decades. He had earlier mentioned that one of his younger attorneys was watching the meeting on zoom to gain more insight into how she would handle different issues.

Jones specifically asked about a mural that recently went up in the historic district that apparently contained an aspect in the design that was considered a sign. Walker said the person who put up the mural was willing to remove the signage portion of the mural. Because the mural was in the historic district, he said a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Board should have been obtained prior to putting up the mural. However, he specified that the building itself was not a historic structure.

Commissioner Ross Ambrose suggested that clear timelines as to when an ordinance or project was due would help staff— a suggestion with which Walker said he agreed.

In response to a question if the contract with the City could be modified to hire a second attorney, Walker said it could be done, but a separate attorney would require putting out a Request for Proposals (RFP).

Commissioner Katherine Weitz made a motion to bring the item back for discussion after they had a chance to review the contract. The motion was seconded by Jones and passed unanimously.

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