Counsel and Council: A Guide for Building a Productive Employment Relationship

This booklet is intended to assist city council members and city attorneys in defining the structure of their

employment relationship.

Among the issues addressed by this booklet are:

  • The nature of the employment relationship.
  • The recruitment and selection of a city attorney and defining his or her role.
  • Defining the parameters of the city attorney-city council employment relationship.
  • Maintaining a viable employment relationship.
  • Effectuating an amicable and enforceable conclusion to the employment relationship.
  • Suggested employment agreement provisions for both contract and in-house city attorneys.

This booklet should serve as a starting point for discussions about how the relationship should be viewed. It offers practical suggestions on structuring the employment relationship in an effort to achieve both parties’ objectives and expectations.

This booklet evolved from a survey given to all city attorneys, both contract and in-house, in March 2001. The survey asked about such issues as:

  • Particulars about the employment relationship between city attorneys and their councils.
  • The city attorney hiring process and whether there was an employment agreement.
  • How the city attorney’s job performance was evaluated, and what role the city attorney played in the organization and community.

Attorneys were asked to provide copies of employment agreements and other documents governing their employment, such as charter provisions, municipal codes, resolutions, and civil service rules and regulations.

A total of 148 surveys were completed and returned. The results were tallied and the agreements and other documents analyzed. The goal of this booklet is to put the results into context by exploring the basic aspects of the relationship between a city attorney and his or her council.

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