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521 W. Cedar St.
Rawlins, WY 82301
Ph: (307) 328-4500
What are the areas of responsibilities for the City Attorney?
OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY RESPONSIBILITIES


1. Planning Commission. The Planning Commission deals primarily with Title 18 subdivisions and Title 19 Zoning of the City Code. The Planning Commission meets twice a month and reviews subdivision plats and applications for special use permits and serves as an advisory board to the city council. It is the responsibility of the City Attorney’s Office is to develop a meeting packet that assists the Planning Commission in understanding what the citizen is requesting of the commission and the applicable law relating to the request. An attorney from the City Attorney’s Office also attends the Planning Commission meetings to insure that the meeting is run in compliance with the administrative procedures act. The City Attorney’s Office is the legal advisor to the Planning Commission and answers questions on procedure and completes research as requested by the commission. A secretary from the City Attorney’s Office assists in compiling the packet that goes out to commission members, mailing notice to all interested parties, drafts minutes of the commission meeting, assists in the audio transcript, assists with the video transcript of the meeting, types all memoranda from the attorney and is responsible for file retention. We anticipate that involvement with this board will become more involved as the Planning Commission begins the process of developing the Master Plan.

2. The Construction Board. The Construction Board is made up of local citizens who have expertise in the construction industry. The Construction Board is the appeals board for city code enforcement. The city building inspector inspects buildings and reviews building plans to insure that national codes adopted by the City of Rawlins are complied with. Code enforcement also investigates complaints about contractors and inspects work completed by contractors. If contractors violate the building code it is possible for code enforcement to request disciplinary action against the contractor. The complaint is scheduled with the construction board and the construction board relies on their areas of expertise to make a determination as to appropriate disciplinary action such as suspension of a contractor’s license. The City Attorney’s Office reviews the complaint before they are submitted to the construction board and advises code enforcement as to applicability of city ordinances, national codes and enforcement authority of the construction board. At the hearing a representative from the City Attorney’s Office attends to insure that the administrative procedures act is followed. The decision of the construction board can result in a decision that affects the contractor’s right to conduct business and that decision is appealable. Any appeal taken from the Construction Board is to the Board of Adjustments. The City Attorney’s Office briefs the issue and represents the interest of the Construction Board at the appellant level before the Board of Adjustments. A Construction Board also convenes in the event that a citizen requests a hearing before the entire board rather than the construction board administrative hearing officer. See discussion below under nuisance abatement and dangerous building abatement. The legal secretary prepares all memoranda from the city attorney to the board and to code enforcement.

3. Board of Adjustment. Any decision made by a city employee that affects the rights of a citizen can be appealed. The appeal goes before the Board of Adjustment. Any requirement of Title 19 Zoning provisions can also be appealed and that process is done through a request for a variance to the Board of Adjustment. When a citizen requests a variance, the City Attorney’s Office attends the meeting of the Board of Adjustment to insure that the administrative procedures act is complied with. The City Attorney’s Office does not advocate one way or the other but advises the community development director on procedural issues in the event the community development director requests that the variance not be granted. In the event a variance is not granted, the issue can be appealed to the district court. If the Board of Adjustment is meeting at the request of a citizen on an appeal of a city employee or a board or division of the city’s decision the city attorney’s role is twofold. First, the city attorney insures that the procedures of the administrative procedure act are complied with and that all appropriate evidence is presented to the Board of Adjustment. The city attorney also is an advocate of the city employee, board or division whose decision is being appealed.

4. Departments and Downtown Development Association/Main street. The City Attorney’s Office reviews all contracts between the departments and any other entity. At the request of the department, the City Attorney’s Office will draft proposed ordinances for the department to present to the city council. If the ordinance is passed by the City Council the legal secretary changes each portion of the city ordinance book that has been affected by the addition of or change to an ordinance. After the changes are made to the master copy of the city ordinances changes are distributed to each department head and any other individual who has copies of the city ordinance so that their ordinance can be appropriately updated. These changes are also provided to the city employee that is responsible for the city website so that the ordinances on the website can also be updated to show the additions or changes. The City Attorney’s Office advises the department on human relations, law and is involved in all disciplinary action to ensure that personnel policy of the city is complied with and any disciplinary action is appropriate and does not violate an employee’s civil rights. The City Attorney’s Office has purchased a training program that can be used through private study or group training to provide supervisors of each department with information relating to employment law. This is a proactive attempt on the part of the City Attorney’s Office to avoid litigation in human resource law. The department heads receive training in hiring, firing, documentation, evaluations, discipline, harassment, discrimination, employee privacy and work place violence. Department heads are encouraged to then set up additional training sessions within their individual departments. The City of Rawlins does not have a human resource officer and until the city can afford to hire one the City Attorney’s Office anticipates continued involvement in this proactive attempt to avoid litigation. The City of Rawlins no longer has a safety officer and the City Attorney’s Office is encouraging the expansion and distribution of a safety manual. Again, this is a proactive attempt to minimize litigation. The City’s primary involvement in safety issues is to continually encourage the city to develop and enforce safety issues. The city attorney assists department heads when there are on the job injuries. Employees involved with certain level injuries and/or accidents are required to submit to body fluid testing. The City Attorney’s Office periodically reviews the procedure followed in the event of accidents and reported injuries and advises department heads on the issues relating to the drug and alcohol testing of the employee. The City Attorney’s Office advises the department and the city manager on legal issues when an employee is hired and advises the department and the city manager on legal issues if an employee’s employment with the city is terminated. The City Attorney’s Office is currently working on a file retention policy to be utilized by department heads and supervisors. The city attorney advises department heads on legal issues related to the acquisition of equipment and supplies and advises department heads on issues relating to the sale or other disposition of city property. The acquisition of real property and personal property by a municipality and the disposition of real property and personal property by a municipality are strictly governed by Wyoming statutes. The Wyoming statutes also strictly govern a municipality’s dealings with contractors, service providers and suppliers of equipment and other merchandise. The city attorney works closely with Department heads to insure that Wyoming statutes are complied with. Each department deals generally with a specific portion of the Wyoming statutes or one of the 20 sections of the municipal code. On almost a daily basis the city attorney works with a department head in the process of interpretation of those statutes and ordinances as well as interpretation of any provision of the personnel policy that the department head is dealing with. Services provided to department heads and the city manager by the City Attorney’s Office is a continuous process resulting in the legal secretary answering the phone, taking messages and coordinating meetings to facilitate this process. An attorney from the City Attorney’s Office attends all department head meetings which usually take up the first half of each Tuesday. At the department head meeting department heads discuss activities from the previous week and future plans. It is the responsibility of the city attorney to recognize any potential legal issues involved with the activities of each department.

5. The City Council. The City Attorney’s Office is the attorney for the city council and provides legal advice to the council and its members. The city council meets the first and third Tuesday of each month and usually participates in a workshop on those same evenings. An employee from the City Attorney’s Office attends all city council meetings and a majority of the work sessions. If it appears a work session is not dealing with issues that may involve legalities the city attorney is present in the building in the event a question does arise. One of the primary legal emphases with the city council is the Wyoming open meeting laws, constitution provisions that apply to municipalities and Wyoming statutes dealing with municipalities. The City Attorney’s Office is often called upon by the council to research and explain constitutional issues, and statutes and case law relating to their duties as a council.

6. Municipal Court.
a. Criminal prosecution. The City Attorney’s Office represents the City of Rawlins at all criminal arraignments the last half of each Monday. At arraignment, the defendant is advised of constitutional rights and given an opportunity to enter a plea. If the defendant pleads guilty the city attorney has previously reviewed the defendant’s criminal history and the police report. The city attorney provides information to the municipal judge and makes recommendations as to sentencing. If the defendant pleads not guilty the city attorney prepares the matter for prosecution by insuring notice and discovery is provided to the defendant and/or the defendant’s attorney. The City Attorney’s Office evaluates the allegations and the case and interviews officers and witnesses to make a determination if the case should be dismissed or recharged to a more appropriate charge. If the case cannot be settled by plea agreement the city attorney prosecutes the case at trial in municipal court. In the event the defendant is convicted and appeals the decision of the court, the city attorney represents the city by briefing and arguing the case before the district judge and if necessary the Wyoming supreme court. Rights of the citizen are protected by the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Wyoming. There is an incredible amount of paperwork that must be filed to document that the defendant’s rights have been complied with. There is an equal amount of paperwork that is required to schedule the various hearings and prepare the motions, orders, briefs and other documents relative to the process. Most of this paperwork, notice and scheduling is taken care of by the secretary for the city attorney. The legal secretary also tracks probation and warrants.

In the event that a defendant is convicted he is often placed on probation. The City Attorney’s Office tracks the case to insure the conditions of probation are complied with. In the event the defendant fails to pay a fine or otherwise violates a condition of probation the City Attorney’s Office files a motion for an order to appear and show cause and represents the city at the show cause hearing. In the event a defendant does not appear on the order to appear and show cause a warrant is issued for the defendant. The City Attorney’s Office tracks the warrant and when the warrant is executed represents the city at the arraignment on the warrant. In the event the defendant denies the allegations of a warrant or an order to appear and show cause the matter is set for hearing and the city attorney’s office represents the City of Rawlins in that hearing.

The City Attorney’s Office also issues criminal search warrants at the request of the police department. The City Attorney’s Office interviews the police officer to determine whether or not a search warrant is appropriate. If it is determined a search warrant is appropriate the City Attorney’s Office drafts an affidavit from the officer explaining why the court is being petitioned for a search warrant. All the necessary paperwork is processed and presented to the court for determination. Once the search warrant is complete an inventory is conducted and the appropriate paperwork is filed.

7. Nuisance abatement. The city attorney can represent the interest of the city in a nuisance abatement case either civilly or criminally.
a. Criminal nuisance. A nuisance abatement officer can write a citation for violation of nuisance ordinances. If a citation is written by the nuisance abatement officer the citation is treated the same as any other criminal citation and the matter proceeds through municipal court as described above.
b. Civil nuisance. In the event that code enforcement or the City Attorney’s Office makes the determination to proceed civilly against a citizen in violation of the nuisance ordinances the matter goes to an administrative hearing officer acting on behalf of the Construction Board. The municipal court judge has been selected by the Construction Board to act as the administrative hearing officer for the purpose of nuisance abatement. The violator is served with a notice by code enforcement that they are in violation of the code. If the violator has not remedied the violation within a specified time period the matter is turned over to the city attorney. The city attorney files a complaint before the administrative hearing officer and the notice is filed with the newspaper and notice is given to the violator. If the violator has not requested an appeal of the decision of the code enforcement officer within thirty (30) days the City Attorney’s Office requests an abatement order from the administrative hearing officer. If the violator requests a hearing, the matter is presented to the administrative hearing officer and the City Attorney’s Office represents the city and advocates on behalf of code enforcement at the hearing. In the event that an abatement order is issued and the violator appeals, the city attorney represents the interests of the city by briefing and arguing the case before the district court. If an abatement order is issued and the violator does not appeal, the city attorney monitors the abatement process to insure that rights of the citizen are not violated in the abatement process. Rights of the citizen are protected by the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Wyoming. There is an incredible amount of paperwork that must be filed to document that the defendant’s rights have been complied with. There is an equal amount of paperwork that is required to schedule the various hearings and prepare the motions, orders, briefs and other documents relative to the process. Most of this paperwork, notice and scheduling is taken care of by the secretary for the city attorney. Civil process often results in a negotiated settlement agreement. In an agreement, the party agrees to bring property into compliance based on a plan acceptable to the parties. The City Attorney’s Office tracks the progress of the citizen bringing the property into compliance and dismisses the case when the property is in compliance or in the alternative files a motion for an abatement order in the event the property owner does not comply with the stipulations.

At the request of code enforcement officials the city drafts the necessary paperwork for a civil search warrant. An affidavit from the code enforcement officer is drafted and presented to the court along with all the necessary paperwork justifying the issuance of the civil warrant. Once the civil warrant is issued, code enforcement enters upon the premises to inspect for violation of city codes. In the event property is removed an inventory is completed as required by law.

8. Dangerous building abatement. The city attorney can represent the interest of the city in a dangerous building case either civilly or criminally.
a. Criminal dangerous building. A dangerous building abatement officer can
write a citation for violation of dangerous building ordinances. If a
citation is written by the dangerous building abatement officer the citation
is treated the same as any other criminal citation and the matter proceeds
through municipal court as described above.
b. Civil dangerous building. In the event that code enforcement or the City Attorney’s Office makes the determination to proceed civilly against a citizen in violation of the dangerous building ordinances the matter goes to an administrative hearing officer acting on behalf of the Construction Board. The municipal court judge has been selected by the Construction Board to act as an administrative hearing officer for the purpose of dangerous building abatement. The violator is served with a notice by code enforcement that they are in violation of the code. If the violator has not remedied the violation within a specified time period the matter is turned over to the city attorney. The city attorney files a complaint before the administrative hearing officer and the notice is filed with the newspaper and notice is given to the violator. If the violator has not requested an appeal of the decision of the code enforcement officer within thirty (30) days the City Attorney’s Office requests an abatement order from the administrative hearing officer. If the violator requests a hearing, the matter is presented to the administrative hearing officer and the City Attorney’s Office represents the city and advocates on behalf of code enforcement at the hearing. In the event that an abatement order is issued and the violator appeals, the city attorney represents the interests of the city by briefing and arguing the case before the district court. If an abatement order is issued and the violator does not appeal, the city attorney monitors the abatement process to insure that rights of the citizen are not violated in the abatement process. Rights of the citizen are protected by the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Wyoming. There is an incredible amount of paperwork that must be filed to document that the defendant’s rights have been complied with. There is an equal amount of paperwork that is required to schedule the various hearings and prepare the motions, orders, briefs and other documents relative to the process. Most of this paperwork, notice and scheduling is taken care of by the secretary for the city attorney. Civil process often results in a negotiated settlement agreement. In an agreement, the party agrees to bring property into compliance based on a plan acceptable to the parties. The City Attorney’s Office tracks the progress of the citizen bringing the property into compliance and dismisses the case when the property is in compliance or in the alternative files a motion for an abatement order in the event the property owner does not comply with the stipulations.

At the request of code enforcement officials the city drafts the necessary paperwork for a civil search warrant. An affidavit from the code enforcement officer is drafted and presented to the court along with all the necessary paperwork justifying the issuance of the civil warrant. Once the civil warrant is issued, code enforcement enters upon the premises to inspect for violation of city codes. In the event property is removed an inventory is completed as required by law.

9. Human Resources. The City Attorney’s Office advises the City Manager on labor
law including Family Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Labor Standards Handbook. The Fair Labor Standards Act deals primarily with wage and hourly issues. The City Attorney’s Office monitors job descriptions and status of employees as exempt or nonexempt and overtime laws. The city attorney also reviews all contracts that involve labor issues to insure that the contractor who is awarded the bid from the city is in compliance with wage and hourly requirements. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires the city to make reasonable accommodations for employees who have disabilities. The City Attorney’s Office keeps up on what seems to be ever changing laws in this area and alerts department heads and the city manager to possible ADA issues. The City Attorney’s Office also monitors training for supervisors to insure they are aware of the requirements of the ADA and are able to identify possible issues as they arise. The Family Medical Leave Act requires that the City of Rawlins provides twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave for a qualifying event under the Family Medical Leave Act. The City Attorney’s Office monitors and advises the city clerk and city manager as to FMLA issues. The City Attorney’s Office also monitors the training of supervisors to insure that they are familiar with the requirements of FMLA and recognize potential issues.

The personnel policy sets forth a hearing procedure for disciplinary acts and the City Attorney’s Office monitors the process to insure that any disciplinary action is in compliance with the requirements of the personnel policy. The personnel policy was modified in 2008 and the City Attorney’s Office keeps abreast of issues relating to personnel policies to insure that appropriate changes can be made to the personnel policy when appropriate. The personnel policy lists protections for the employees and when an employee feels like they are the subject of discrimination, harassment, our city is in violation of fair labor standards act, family medical leave act or the Americans with disabilities act, the employee can file a complaint. The City Attorney’s Office investigates allegations of discrimination, harassment or violations of employee rights and advises the city manager as to legal issues. If the employee is not satisfied with the results of the internal investigation relating to their complaint they can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the state of Wyoming the Department of Labor has a work sharing agreement with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor reviews all allegations of violations. Once a complaint has been filed they are similar to lawsuits but are completed in compliance with the administrative procedures act. The City Attorney’s Office represents the city on EEOC claims. Upon final determination from the Department of Labor an employee can file a civil rights action in federal district court. Prior to following the action in federal district court the city and the employee are both given an opportunity to settle the case in a manner acceptable to both the city and the employee. If the case cannot be settled and a federal claim is filed, the city is represented by the local government liability pool with an attorney paid for by the liability pool.

10. Contracts, agreements and tickler system: In the past there has been a tendency to sign the stock agreement of venders. These contracts have often been signed by lower level employees who are not authorized to represent the city. Thousands of dollars have been paid upfront for work when no written contract has been entered into. Small jobs have not been bid out and have been done without contract. When a problem comes up the city is often left without recourse. Purchase of supplies without contracts has resulted in thousands of dollars of duplication that could have been avoided by contract review and approval process. Lease payments owed to the city have gone for years without payment and contract deadlines have been missed by the city because tickler systems have not been set up. We are now trying to insure that all work is done only when a contract is in place that has been reviewed by the city manager and the city attorney. Tickler systems are being developed.

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