Update Editor’s Note: At the Aug.4 Poteet City Council meeting, it was determined that the motion for hiring a new legal counsel was unable to pass due to lack of a majority vote. A revote was done on the original motion. N. Sanchez and Flores voted against while Cantu, Fernandez and Bautista voted in favor leading to the hiring of Maldonado Law Group PLLC as the new legal counsel.
The City of Poteet held its regularly scheduled council meeting on Aug. 3 at 6:30 p.m. After two and a half hours, Mayor Denise Sanchez recessed the meeting until August 4 at 6:30 p.m. Left on the agenda are New Business: Item’s I-P. One action made during the meeting was the hiring of a new legal counsel.
The City of Poteet began seeking proposals for law firms to provide city attorney services. The former attorney, Davidson Troilo Ream & Garza, was terminated during the July 6 council meeting.
Four law firms filled out a Request for Proposals (RFPs) for professional legal services and municipal court prosecution services. The four law firms were Navarro Rocha Bernal & Zech, P.C., Langley & Banack, Messer, Fort & McDonald, PLLC and Bojorquez Law Firm.
Maldonado Law Group PLLC was hired as the new legal counsel. They were the only law firm that did not complete an RFP. During the council meeting, they were represented by two attorneys, Itzel Martinez and Denise Martinez. Maldonado Law Group PLLC serves currently as the legal counsel for the City of Pleasanton.
Mayor Pro Tem Nicholas Sanchez asked Maldonado Law Group when they became aware of the opening. Itzel responded by saying she believed the opening had been posted nine days prior.
“Is there a reason why you didn’t put in an application like the rest of the four attorney firms?” N. Sanchez asked. Itzel responded by saying cities are free to hire legal counsel without any formal process in place. N. Sanchez reiterated by saying that wasn’t his question and specifically asked why they decided not to send in an application. Mayor Sanchez quickly interrupted N. Sanchez and said the council needed to move forward.
“Has the law firm ever represented anyone on this council?” N. Sanchez asked.
The attorneys said they had not worked with anyone individually but have worked with the city previously.
“I think he’s talking about 2016 when they wanted to remove me from the city council,” Mayor Sanchez said. “That’s what he’s talking about.”
N. Sanchez followed up by saying to Mayor Sanchez he’d seen in the Pleasanton Express that Maldonado had served as Mayor Sanchez’s personal attorney in 2015.
“I had read in the Pleasanton Express that Maldonado had represented you in another case,” N. Sanchez said. “Was he ever your personal attorney at one time?”
“I wish not to answer you because I don’t have to answer to you,” Mayor Sanchez replied.
The Pleasanton Express has reached out to Maldonado Law Firm and Mayor Sanchez to get the dates when they served as Mayor Sanchez’s personal attorney.
In a Feb. 11, 2015 Pleasanton Express article on a Poteet City Council meeting, it was reported that attorney Bobby Maldonado represented then councilmember Denise Sanchez. Councilmember Sanchez at the time was facing complaints filed by city employees. Maldonado was given the opportunity to speak on behalf of Denise Sanchez as her personal legal counsel during that meeting. He was not representing the City of Poteet.
The request for RFP’s has very stringent requirements and can be found in full on the City of Poteet’s website. Deadlines stated that proposals had to be delivered by July 29 at noon to Poteet City Hall. The proposals would not be accepted by email or fax. It stated on the RFP that proposals received after this time would not be accepted and returned unopened. The RFP required seven (7) complete sets of the response to also be received no later than July 29 at noon in a sealed envelope indicating that its contents are in response to the “City of Poteet – Statement of Proposal for Professional Services – Legal.”
The proposal requirements for the RFP were:
A. Firm or individual name, including the addresses of all firm offices, identifying in which office the work will be performed.
B. Names of principals in the firm and the number of years the firm has been in business. Attach a list of principals in the firm; including a biographical sketch of each. Include education, years of legal experience, years of municipal legal experience, and any other areas of specialty within the field of municipal law. A statement naming the principal anticipated to be the attorney with responsibility for providing the City of Poteet with City Attorney Services.
C. A list of supporting attorneys who will provide legal services to the City of Poteet naming in ranking order, any attorney anticipated to represent the City of Poteet, complete with educational and credentialing information, years of legal experience, years of municipal legal experience, and information of any areas of specialty within the field of municipal law.
D. Summary of qualifications, specializations, experience, professional affiliations, special training, and Texas Bar certification in municipal law or other related fields.
E. Number of staff, by discipline, in the office and copies of their résumés.
F. List a minimum of five (5) professional references, including current municipal clients that your firm has represented in the past five (5) years. List a contact person for each client with a telephone number for the contact person.
G. Please provide a list of any clients that you currently represent that could cause a conflict of interest with your responsibilities with the City of Poteet. Describe how you would be willing to resolve these or any future conflicts of interest.
H. If your firm has filed any litigation in the past five years in which either the City of Poteet or one of its officials or employees was named as a defendant, please describe the case(s).
I. If you have filed any litigation or administrative hearing in the past five years against any municipality, please describe the case(s).
J. Any other documentation which the firm / individual deems necessary which will detail the firm’s or individual’s professional experience.
Each submittal should provide a summary detailing the experience and understanding of the role of providing consulting legal services.
Also in the RFP was the request for the fees of the attorney services. It specifically asked for the hourly rates of the partners and associates, general representation, special projects, municipal courts, litigation and administrative costs.
The RFP stated that there were evaluation criteria. The evaluation criteria stated that proposals would be evaluated on a rating point system based on a 100 point maximum to determine a group of three finalists.
Paul Fletcher, an attorney for Langley & Banack, who sent in an RFP also spoke at Tuesday, Aug. 3 council meeting. He said his law firm responded to the ad in a timely manner and completed the RFP.
“I was a little confused by the agenda when I saw it,” Fletcher said. “But nonetheless the RFP said y’all would be opening up with the item today so we appeared. We’d love to have the job. We know not everyone’s going to be happy. Our motto is, we’re gonna tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.”
He finished by saying they have worked as a firm for over 200 years and he has practiced law for 25. He encouraged the council to look over their RFP as well as the other applicants.
Councilmember Candice Cantu motioned for Maldonaldo to take over as legal counsel, effective Aug. 6 with council member Jeremy Fernandez seconding. N. Sanchez voted negative while Cantu and Fernandez voted in favor. Council members Rick Flores and Crystal Bautista abstained leading to a 2-1 vote in favor of hiring Maldonado Law Group PLLC as the new legal counsel.
Tonight’s city council will be held at Poteet City Hall at 6:30 p.m. and will be live-streamed in full by the Pleasanton Express.