County approves agreement for legal services

During the Monday morning meeting of the Nolan County Commissioners, approval was given toward a general services agreement with the Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado, Acosta law firm.The agreement would allow the firm to assist the county attorney in various civil matters, which includes advising and representing Nolan County for a set fee. Since the agreement is a professional service, a finding will be entered that it is exempt from the competitive bidding requirements of the local government code.Presenting the information to the commissioners were county attorney Lisa Peterson and a representative from the firm, Charles Kimbrough. The firm offered the agreement to the county and fees are only assessed when the services are used.In the instance that services are used, the law firm stated that they will offer comprehensive assistance and will stand behind their advice, in comparison to groups offering free services. Thus, the financial aspect of the agreement would come into play on an as-needed basis.Kimbrough noted the firm's work with architect contracts--among other services, as they have experts on hand to work on various issues to assist the county. The Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado, Acosta firm has been working for around thirty years with local government and has dealt with a variety of questions in their tenure.The nature and scope of the general services were discussed, which comprised almost all of the work within the county. Specialty areas were also noted, with other areas falling within a reduced rate.Kimbrough posed the question as to why the services would be needed, and stated that the county already is acquainted with the law firm. With the agreement, the county can see less expensive rates.In addition, with the wide variety of interest to county affairs, the firm can offer answers in a swift manner in order to determine if more work would be required. On different occasions, other services could be used by the county, but some of these entities are not lawyers but interest groups. With the partnership of the law firm, a structured and cautious relationship can be formed for the county to obtain thorough and conservative information.Currently, the firm has made similar agreement with surrounding counties such as Mitchell, Shackelford, Callahan and Coleman counties. Through their representation of both large and small counties, the depth of skills available through the law firm could be beneficial for Nolan County.Kimbrough also detailed different ways of how the services could be used, such as assistance for when an unprecedented situation arises, or for a new situation following the implementation of new laws.In addition, the services could be used if the county needed a second opinion or needed help evaluating an opinion. Finally, the firm could serve as an objective group in the instance that a delicate issue arose and local counsel should not be involved.On the other hand, the agreement could never be used by the county. However, Peterson noted that the agreement serves as a safety net, should an unexpected circumstance take place and a new person--in the role of county attorney--would use the assistance.Furthermore, Kimbrough stated that the agreement would be beneficial in order to strengthen the relationship already established between the county and the law firm. By using the services, the county could become more familiar with the firm and maintain their trust for both large or small matters.A brief question and answer session was then held, which clarified how the contract would bring savings from the general fees that were presented in the handout given to the commissioners. Either Peterson or a designated person would speak to the firm when the services are used, and while funds are available, they could possibly be rearranged to form a line item for its usage.