001-150 City Attorney

General Fund

Department Information and Background

Section 3.06 of the City Charter describes the City Attorney as the “legal advisor to and attorney for the City.” The mission of the City Attorney is to safeguard the legal, ethical, and financial integrity of the City which is accomplished by providing legal services, support, and advice to the City Commission, City Manager, City Clerk, and all appointed boards and committees, department directors and other City employees, on matters involving the affairs and business of the City of Stuart in a manner meeting the highest standards of Professional Diligence and Ethics.

The City Attorney shall prosecute and defend all suits, complaints, and controversies for and on behalf of the City and its entities, unless otherwise directed by the Commission, and shall review all contracts, bonds, and other instruments in writing in which the City is to be a party and shall endorse on each approval as to form and legality. The City Attorney is also responsible for ensuring compliance with Florida Laws related to the operation of the municipality such as the “Sunshine Law”, due process matters, and other procedural aspects that are critical for public hearings.

Additionally, the City Attorney’s Office handles all forfeiture and risk protection trials for the Police Department, defends the City in lawsuits related to land use, contractual disputes and other litigation matters that may arise. The primary work of the department is: (a) researching and preparing ordinances, resolutions, contracts, leases, and other legal documents, as well as reviewing all documents submitted for the agenda; (b) researching and answering legal questions from the City Commission and staff including issues pertaining to notice requirements, conflicts of interest, records retention and interpretation of the Comprehensive Plan and City Codes; (c) defending litigation; and (d) prosecuting cases on the City’s behalf.

Although the City can defer litigation related to simple torts to outside counsel because of general liability insurance coverage, there remains a significant amount of litigation that does not fall within that category such as: land use disputes, commercial property management disputes, code enforcement matters, and foreclosures related to code enforcement. In order to reduce expenditures, the City Attorney’s Office has actively participated in a significant amount of litigation which has previously been referred to outside counsel at a tremendous expense to the City. By handling these matters “in house”, a substantial savings to the City has been realized.

The City Paralegal provides assistance at all levels in the department. In addition to the services provided by the City Attorney directly, the City Paralegal handles all liens, subordination agreements, and releases related to the septic-to-sewer conversion program, all Proclamations issued by the City, and substantial legal research for all City departments. Because of the teamwork between the City Attorney and the City Paralegal, as well as the experience and high-quality work product produced by the City Paralegal, the City Attorney’s office is able to operate with one attorney and one paralegal. By handling a substantial amount of litigation, the City has already saved a significant amount of money that would have been expended on outside counsel. The amount saved already exceeds the full-time salary for the City Attorney. In contrast, Martin County has four attorneys with multiple support staff; the City of Port St. Lucie has nine attorneys and six support staff. Additionally, they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on outside counsel as well.

The City Attorney recommends a legal department budget based upon focused service levels and in-house litigation.

Department Goals and Objectives

  • Continue to provide litigation services thereby reducing the cost of outside legal counsel, as well as maintain a complete understanding of the matters that have resulted in litigation to avoid any liability in the future.
  • Provided assistance to the City Manager relating to meetings, as well as negotiations on matters which have legal impact to the City.
  • Continue to prosecute code enforcement cases.
  • Continue to prosecute Forfeiture cases and Risk Protection Orders.
  • Continue to disseminate information to Commission and City Boards and entities related to Sunshine Law and other procedure matters to ensure transparency and trust within the community.
  • Continue to revise City Regulations and Ordinances to comply with legislative changes, as well as ongoing Court interpretations.
  • Provide insight on all aspects of municipal government relating to the process and procedure necessary to operate the municipality.
  • The City Attorney’s office will continue to meet the legal needs of the City Commission, as well as the City through its employees, boards, and communications with the public.

Department Appropriations

Department Staffing