The City of Penticton is securing legal services from two different law firms in non-exclusive contracts for incoming files.
Purchasing manager Cathy Ingram explained to council Monday that the city issued a request for proposals (RFP) for legal services in September, and received applications from six legal firms by the December deadline.
A committee reviewed the proposals, she said, and ranked them according to hourly rate, experience and knowledge of civic legislation, services available and references.
Boyle and Co., established in 1921, scored 82 points, offering seven lawyers available with hourly rates of $125 and $240. Stewart McDannold Stuart scored 86 points as it was established 23 years ago, has 10 lawyers and its rates also range from $140 to $240.
Both firms indicated junior lawyers would handle the cases where possible to lower costs associated with billable hours. The city’s current solicitor, Richard Thompson, charges an hourly rate of $195 an hour.
Staff recommended both Boyle and Co. and Stewart McDannold Stuart be awarded three-year, non-exclusive contracts with options to renew.
Mayor Dan Ashton said there are benefits to having the flexibility to deal with two solicitors.
“I’m very glad to see this split. I think it’s long overdue. We have been very happy with the legal services provided by Mr. Thompson,” he said. “We have had difficulty garnering his attention some days, particularly on Fridays, when I believe he’s travelling.”
Having to wait until Mondays, Ashton said, has left the city with too much “exposure” until the weekend is over.
“One can’t argue against good legal advice. You’ve got to have it.”
Coun. Judy Sentes said change can be a benefit: non-profit societies change legal counsel and accounting services every five years.
“It’s not a reflection of what’s been in the past. It’s about utilizing good business practices,” she said.
Coun. Garry Litke expressed concern about existing files, and whether the bylaw allows Thompson to continue on with files. He proposed an amended motion that would include Thompson’s services for an interim period of one year, but it ultimately failed to garner support at the council table.
“We would leave the current files with the current legal provider,” Ingram said.
Council approved the two non-exclusive contracts recommended by staff.
Note: The online story was edited on Tuesday, Feb. 28 to correct the spelling of Stewart McDannold Stuart, one of the successful proponents.