AVON PARK — The City Council had good words about interim city attorney Gerald Buhr, but the majority of the council want a formal hiring process in selecting its permanent city attorney.
Buhr had served about 10 years as the city’s contract attorney until the majority of the City Council decided in May 2017 to have an on-staff city attorney.
When council newcomers Maria Sutherland and Stanley Spurlock took office in November 2018, the City Council dismissed the city’s on-staff attorney, Glinda Pruitt. Soon after, Buhr was selected as the interim city attorney without the position being advertised.
At a recent City Council meeting, Councilman Stanley Spurlock said he didn’t know why Buhr was still the interim attorney.
“Why don’t we go ahead and appoint him full time,” he said.
Stanley made a motion to appoint Buhr as the full-time city attorney and remove the “interim” in his title.
Buhr responded, “I would be honored to do so, but … I can’t really advise you on the procurement aspect of it whether you have to go through the procurement process.” He suggested asking city labor attorney Brian Koji to clarify that aspect of it before it is finalized.
Councilwoman Maria Sutherland seconded the motion.
Mayor Garrett Anderson said he would rather see a formal hiring process.
“I know we kind of skimped by on what we did for the city manager,” he said. “We sped that up to go as fast as possible. Some people felt that we went too fast through that process. With the city attorney we just put someone in interim to get us through.”
He would still like to see a formal hiring process, Anderson reiterated.
“Not that I am unhappy with Gerry, by all means I am thrilled with what he has done,” he said. “I think he is a great attorney and I can almost guarantee he would be who I vote for regardless, but I would like it to be a formal hiring process to at least give the other attorneys an option to show us what is out there.”
Councilwoman Brenda Gray said she also believes there should be a formal hiring process.
“We have several of the council members up here saying let’s make it transparent then I think we still should follow that process,” she said.
The motion, to remove interim from Buhr’s title, was voted down by a 3-2 vote with Spurlock and Deputy Mayor Jim Barnard voting “yes.”
Anderson said there should be a formal hiring process this year.
Council directed City Manager David Flowers to check with Koji on the requirements to advertise and fill the position.