City Solicitor Departing City Hall; Commission Passes Over Legal Contract
Covington City Solicitor Michael Bartlett announced his resignation Tuesday night but noted that it is not related to other recent departures from City Hall, such as the resignations of City Manager David Johnston and Assistant City Manager Bruce Applegate.
"My next mission is an opportunity that I cannot turn down. It is something that is potentially life changing for my family and it is an opportunity to help change the lives of my future teammates," Bartlett wrote in his resignation letter, accepted by the city commission. "Although I will miss the daily interactions with our staff and officials, I will be close by watching with pride as the City grows and prospers."
In a separate email to City Hall managers, Bartlett wrote, "I will be working with a close friend in his established business and I will help him with a startup. There has been a lot of change in the organization recently, but that has nothing to do with my departure. The opportunity is truly that unique and special."
Bartlett has been with Covington's city solicitor office for six years, taking over the department's top role from Frank Warnock who was promoted to assistant city manager before becoming city administrator in Bellevue. Bartlett previously contracted with the city while in private practice to defend Covington Police officers "involved arguably in frivolous litigation," he wrote.
"Since then, I have witnessed truly tremendous growth and positive momentum," he continued. "It is also surreal to think I have been working around or in the City of Covington for that amount of time.
"During the last six years, I have been humbled by the opportunity to represent the City during various roles within the City's legal department. I came to the City seeing and believing in Covington's potential and I hope that I played a part in helping inch closer to reaching that potential."
Bartlett's resignation is effective at month's end.
Meanwhile, the city commission was asked to renew a contract with an outside private firm to aid the legal department but in a strange moment at Tuesday night's meeting, opted to pass it over.
Gatlin Voelker law firm, based at the RiverCenter towers in Covington, had previously been contracted to assist the city with general legal services from 2018 through the end of June this year.
But when a renewal option was considered Tuesday, no commissioner motioned to accept it.
At two points in the silence that followed, Commissioner Ron Washington began to whisper into the ear of Mayor Joe Meyer. It is not clear what was discussed.
A frustrated Meyer later urged the commission to consider passing it over rather than letting the possible contract renewal die. By commission rules, a pass-over allows the legislation to be considered again at a later date.
The commission, none of whom explained their apparent objection to the contract, agreed to that.
"This is so important," Mayor Meyer said. "It would put the (interim) city manager at an extreme disadvantage."
The contract would continue the existing relationship with Gatlin Voelker and one of its principal partners, Brandon Voelker. The firm would provide 75 hours of legal service per month, with hours determined by the city solicitor and the firm, and approved by the city manager.
The one-year retainer would cost $95,000 to be paid monthly at just over $7,900.
-Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photo: Michael Bartlett (City of Covington)