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10:00 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

Prescott Council to offer city attorney job to Paladini

PRESCOTT -  After amending its agenda on Monday to include discussion about the city attorney position, the Prescott City Council agreed Tuesday that the city should make a written job offer to veteran Arizona attorney Jon Paladini.

If the two sides agree on the terms, Paladini, who is currently deployed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army as a rule of law justice operations advisor, would begin his job in Prescott on Feb. 4.

The Tuesday discussion came after the council had reportedly come to a consensus on its number-one choice during a closed-door executive session on Thursday.

The city had interviewed four applicants via video conferencing during an executive session on Dec. 10, and had conducted another closed-door meeting on Dec. 13 to discuss the applicants. Afterward, Mayor Marlin Kuykendall reported that the council had reached consensus "on who would be the number-one pick."

On Friday afternoon, the city released a statement on the matter: "The city is pleased to announce tentative agreement with Jon Paladini of Phoenix, Arizona, to become the newly appointed city attorney."

Because the Arizona Open Meeting Law prohibits public bodies from making decisions or coming to consensus during executive sessions, the Daily Courier filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General's office on Friday.

The city later amended this week's council agenda to include two items: direction on the city attorney position; and appointment of an interim city attorney.

At the start of Tuesday's discussion on the permanent city attorney position, Councilman Charlie Arnold asked interim City Attorney Eugene Neil whether the council could discuss the interviews that took place in executive session this past week.

"You can discuss the candidates," Neil said. "Basically, it is a start-over discussion."

After the meeting, Neil declined to comment on last week's meetings, citing the confidentiality of executive sessions.

Along with Paladini, the other finalists in the current recruitment round included: Mark Langlitz, city attorney in Bisbee from 2009 to 2011; Glenn Gimbut, city attorney in San Luis, AZ from 2004 to present; and Nicholas DePiazza, chief deputy city attorney in Glendale from 2005 to present.

The city also reportedly reconsidered the top choice from its first round of recruitment.

Arnold noted that the city began its current city attorney recruitment after J. Lee Robbins, the top choice from the first round, turned down the job because of family medical issues.

At Tuesday's meeting, Arnold said, "Subsequently, (Robbins) asked to be reconsidered."

But as an attorney in Indiana, Robbins would have required several months to be admitted by the State Bar of Arizona.

Councilman Chris Kuknyo said Paladini's in-state experience was an important factor. "Jon's ready to go," he said.

Councilman Steve Blair added that Paladini's experience working for other city attorneys' offices was also a plus.

"The municipal experience is huge," Blair said.

Paladini's résumé indicates he worked from 2001 to 2007 as chief deputy city attorney in Glendale, and from 1996 to 1999 as assistant city attorney in Sedona.

He also has experience running his own law firm and working for other Phoenix-area firms.

From 2000 to 2010, Paladini served as a full-time state judge advocate for the Arizona Army National Guard. In 2010, he was deployed to Afghanistan on a U.S. Army NATO Rule of Law Field Support Mission.

"Consistent with the comprehensive civilian-military approach and ISAF's (International Security Assistance Force) counterinsurgency strategy, ISAF is providing field support to rule of law efforts, as requested by the Afghan authorities and when desired by international providers," Paladini's résumé stated.

Paladini holds a law degree from University of Miami, and a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Oregon.

The city advertised the job in the $120,000-to-$135,000-per-year range, and Prescott Human Resources Director Mary Jacobsen said Paladini had indicated he was interested in $130,000 per year.

In his letter to the city, Paladini said he planned to be back in Arizona by mid-January.

The new city attorney will replace Gary Kidd, who retired from the post this past summer.

At Tuesday's meeting, the council also considered appointing an interim city attorney to fill in after Neil leaves the job on Dec. 20, and before Paladini arrives in February.

The council agreed to conduct an executive session at 10 a.m. Thursday to consider and possibly interview two candidates suggested by Neil. A public meeting will take place after the executive session for possible appointment of an interim attorney.