December 17, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria mayor’s legal counsel steps down

Kenneth S. Stumphauzer

Kenneth Stumphauzer

Terry Shilling

Terry Shilling

ELYRIA — Attorney Ken Stumphauzer’s tenure as Mayor Holly Brinda’s administrative legal counsel is over.

Stumphauzer resigned from the position last week, Brinda said. Former Law Director Terry “Pete” Shilling stepped into the role at Brinda’s request.

Shilling served the city for 32 years, 26 as law director. He retired at the end of 2011. Post retirement, he served on the city’s Charter Review Commission, a volunteer appointment by City Council that reviews the city charter every 10 years and recommends possible changes to go before voters.

Stumphauzer’s resignation ends any questions about a conflict of interest between his role as the mayor’s counsel and his professional job as an attorney, first with the firm Stumphauzer O’Toole and more recently with the firm Walter Haverfield. In his resignation letter, Stumphauzer said the resignation would allow the city to move forward without the suspicion of impropriety.

“While I am still of the opinion, an opinion shared by many municipal lawyers, that the relationship with my previous law firm was permissible under various statutory provisions and though additional protections have been put in place by recent legislation, the issues remains a distraction that frustrates my ability to continue to serve,” he said.

From 2011 to 2013, when Stumphauzer was partner and director of Stumphauzer O’Toole, the firm made $72,871 working for the city, with the bulk coming in 2013. During that time, several attorneys with the firm, including Stumphauzer, submitted invoices with hundreds of hours of billable time.

Several city officials, including Law Director Scott Serazin, question why Stumphauzer was billing the city for hours worked through the law firm when he was drawing a salary from the city as well.

Stumphauzer now is with Walter Haverfield, which serves as special counsel to the city, handling labor negotiations and labor relations matters. City officials ironed out the service contract to stipulate that Walter Haverfield could not bill for Stumphauzer’s time because all of the legal work he would have performed would have been done in his capacity as administrative legal counsel.

Brinda said Shilling has extensive experience and history in the city, a great working relationship with other city officials, including City Council, and remains interested in moving Elyria forward.

“He has the city of Elyria’s best interest at heart, and quite honestly I think he wants to help me in what I’m trying to do,” she said. “We have had long philosophical discussions on where this administration should go, and I think we are both on the same page.”

The job pays $3,500 a month. Brinda said Shilling is aware of his responsibilities — something that also came under question when Stumphauzer was in the position — which include attending Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, Board of Building Standards Appeals, Landmarks Preservation Commission and Civil Service Commission meetings as well as researching and drafting legal memos and opinions for the mayor and providing legal advice to city officials, except those represented by the law director.

“He has been law director and once served as the administrative legal counsel under previous mayors, so he knows what the job entails,” she said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.