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City hires three law firms to advise Council on BFI agreement

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The city has hired not one, but three, outside law firms to assist with problems arising from the BFI agreement discussed at last week’s Council meeting. Council members approved a resolution directing the City Manager to hire outside counsel to help the city resolve the legal problems involved in voiding the agreement, and to make recommendations on improving  internal procedures that led to the problem.


Some Council members objected when the City Attorney’s office negotiated and signed an agreement in October with BFI Waste Systems that removed the city as an opponent to a permit application to the expansion of a northeast Austin landfill. The Council was on record with a 2007 resolution opposing the landfill expansion, and were upset that the legal staff apparently acted without Council authority.


City Attorney David Smith said Tuesday that he had hired four attorneys from three firms to handle the job. They include:


  • David J. LaBrec, with Strasburger and Price in Dallas. LaBrec is the chair of the firm’s Governmental & Administrative Law Industry Team.  He previously served as First Assistant City Attorney and Chief Trial Attorney for the City of El Paso;
  • Lino Mendiola and Lisa M. Shelton of the Austin office of Andrews Kurth LLP. Mendiola has experience in general administrative law.  Shelton’s expertise includes environmental law issues in permitting, enforcement and regulatory forums, and experience as an attorney for TNRCC (TCEQ’s predecessor agency); and
  • James P. Allison, a partner in the Austin law firm of Allison, Bass & Associates, LLP.  The firm’s practice is primarily in the area of local government representation, and has extensive experience in environmental and natural resources issues, including matters before the TCEQ.

The Allison, Bass firm was originally named in the Council resolution as the law firm city staff was directed to hire, but in a compromise last week, its sponsors dropped any reference to a specific firm.


Smith said the three attorneys had all indicated that they would be available to brief Council in executive session on Thursday. The Council will have to decide after that briefing whether to direct the city manager to take action.

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