With five active lawsuits against it, and with the departure of City Attorney Mike Franell, Ashland is short one lawyer its defense.




"It's not an ideal situation," said Richard Appicello, the city's assistant attorney who is doing double duty until Franell is replaced. "But we're dealing with it."




Appicello, who has been government attorney for St. Helens and Benton County, has some part-time help in former Ashland city attorney Paul Nolte, who works for the city two days a week, but his commitment ends this month.




Since March, when Franell left, the Ashland City Council has been looking to replace him. They received seven resumes, considered four of them and whittled that list down to two finalists before they decided to widen their search. One of the finalists balked at participating in a televised interview session, said City Administrator Martha Bennett.




"We had some timing issues with the two candidates," she said. "It's not a negative reflection on either of them, we're just not sure if we have a perfect fit."




Bennett is looking into hiring a recruiting firm to help in the effort. In previous hiring efforts, recruiting firms have cost the city between $15,000 and 25,000.




"It's expensive and difficult to hire someone," she said. "But it's even more expensive and difficult to hire the wrong person, so the council wants to look at whether or not a recruiter will help us to find the right candidate."




She said finding the right candidate could take three months without a recruiting firm, and four months with one. "A month might be cheap if we end up with the right person," she said.




In the meantime, the city might contract an outside firm to help it through. She said more than half the cities in Oregon contract for legal services rather than having an attorney on staff. For example, Eugene contracts, she said, while Grants Pass has an in-house attorney.




"In addition to the big cases the day-to-day work goes on," Bennett said. "There is a lot of city business that requires consultation with legal."




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