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L'burg hires city attorney

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Fayetteville-based lawyer, who's served as that town's attorney, was hired last week by Lewisburg's councilmen to be the city attorney here.

Steve Broadway succeeds Bill Haywood who is continuing his private practice from his office on Belfast Avenue after serving Lewisburg for a decade.

Broadway agreed to serve Lewisburg in the part-time capacity for $24,000 annually. Haywood's salary had been more than twice that. The amount of Broadway's pay was set by the council as it adopted the city's annual budget that started July 1. It was one of various spending cuts imposed this summer as Marshall County continues to suffer recessionary conditions.

Beyond serving as legal counsel for the elected councilmen, Broadway on Monday started as the city's prosecutor in general sessions court where City Judge Roger Brandon presides at 101 Water Street in the brick building that doubles as police headquarters.

Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart abstained from voting on the motion to hire Broadway, explaining that while she agrees with the hire, she felt obliged to refrain from voting since her father is the judge. The other four councilmen voted to hire Broadway.

"The only thing I wished," Councilman Robin Minor said after the vote, "is that he lived in Lewisburg."

"But then," Stewart said of a city attorney living here, "you might get pressure if so-and-so's niece gets a ticket."

Broadway was the only applicant for the job, appearing before the council during a workshop and then a special-called voting session on July 27.

Late last spring, Broadway wrote to Lewisburg saying he was pleased to respond to an inquiry he received about his availability to serve as city attorney here. Moments before the council convened for its workshop, Broadway was asked where the inquiry came from and he replied "City Hall."

When Haywood started his tenure as city attorney, he succeeded Lewisburg-based attorney Bob Binkley who had also been serving the Lewisburg Industrial Development Board. After a few years, Binkley returned to the position of legal counsel for the IDB.

Binkley took on additional duties last month after City Manager Eddie Fuller relieved Terry Wallace following an apparent consensus among councilmen that someone else was needed in the job that's also known as economic developer. Subsequently, Wallace has become an employee of the South Central Tennessee Workforce Development Board and Binkley's duties increased to include more complete authority when speaking with industrial prospects. No announcement has been made that Binkley was been dubbed interim economic developer.

Councilman Ronald McRady reported Broadway served as legal council for Fayetteville's industrial board until recently, ending about a dozen years as a lawyer for that town.

There was an acknowledgement among councilmen that it would be convenient for Broadway to attend the city IDB meetings which are held on the first Monday of each month. City court is also held that day.

Members of the IDB ought to be consulted with regard to their preference on who should serve as their legal counsel, McRady said.

City attorney is one of three positions mentioned in Lewisburg's City Charter that is filled by a vote by the council. The other two are manager and treasurer. Connie Edde is treasurer and city recorder.

With an indication from Mayor Barbara Woods, Fuller asked Broadway to step away from the public meeting room so the council could discuss him without him there.

McRady moved to hire Broadway. Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. seconded the motion and sought Fuller's advice. Fuller has announced his intention to retire in the fall and replied Broadway is suitable, but that the attorney works at the pleasure of the council.

Minor asked Edde about Broadway. She had "no problem," but is concerned about the timely filing of claims and other legal papers that affect the treasury.

"He did a good job" as Fayetteville's city attorney, Stewart said, "but he got politicked out."

That had been confirmed by Edde who spoke with associates in Lincoln County. They described circumstances including a city election, an attorney on the council, and an apparent majority on that town's board to hire someone else, according to discussion at the meeting table.

As for the prospect of Broadway becoming the IDB's lawyer, McRady said he felt it would be better for the IDB if Broadway didn't attended that board's meeting this Monday as the new city attorney. The meetings are open and Broadway could go if he wanted to. That aspect of diplomacy between officials would allow the panelists to talk with councilmen, McRady said.

"I don't feel he should be there the first time," he said.

Stewart suggested delaying a decision on whether the city attorney should double as IDB council.

"Let's put it on the agenda for the regular August meeting of the council," Stewart said. "By then, the IDB would have met."

That seemed suitable with McRady and other councilmen as he noted there are two vacancies on the IDB. They were apparent reactions to Wallace's dismissal.

Whitehead raised another point for consideration on whether the city attorney should also serve as legal council for the IDB. It wasn't part of the job description issued for the attorney's job, nor is it mentioned in the Charter.

Broadway is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with bachelor's and master's degrees conferred in 1975 and 1979. His 1982 law degree is from the University of Tennessee.

He's been a private practice attorney for 28 years and served for a decade as Fayetteville's attorney until some 18 months ago. During most of those months, he continued as legal counsel for that town's industrial board.

"I like municipal law," Broadway said.

Councilman Hershel Davis spoke with him earlier and publicly asked Broadway about where he lives.

"How's it going to work for you being on-call?" Davis asked.

Broadway's response began about duties as a prosecutor in court and then as an advisor for policemen with questions regardless of the hour of day or night. It was concern raised by Police Chief Chuck Forbis early last month.

The new city attorney said he prefers to be a prosecutor instead of a defense attorney and he does not foresee a problem with keeping police officers in the loop on cases.

Broadway has consulted with District Attorney Chuck Crawford and his top prosecutor here, Eddie Barnard. Both have expressed confidence in the city's new attorney and pledged to be of assistance.

Ultimately, the council was more concerned about issues in City Hall. Broadway replied to Stewart about having filed delinquent property tax suits. Edde advised a couple of industries and several individuals are in bankruptcy court which has strict deadlines.

Broadway is "not too experienced" in bankruptcy court, but has filed back tax complaints, he said, explaining, "As long as you do your due diligence and get it timely-filed, you're OK."

Then, after Broadway indicated he was willing to provide legal advice to the IDB, McRady asked, "So, you would leave the political side to us?"

"Yes," replied Broadway who's also served as a Fayetteville councilman.