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"Nothing Personal": Taylor Mill to Part Ways with City Attorney of 50 Years

Taylor Mill City Attorney Frank Wichmann will serve in that role through January 1, but after that date, a new firm will take on the city's legal representation.

Earlier this week, The River City News reported about an apparent contract dispute between Wichmann and the city, leading the city commission to request bids from other local firms.

The commission decided to tap Covington-based Gatlin Voelker as its new legal counsel starting in January.

Wichmann has served as Taylor Mill's city attorney for fifty years.

City Administrator Brian Haney had previously told RCN that Wichmann had requested changes in his contract, including a raise and an a la carte fee structure, rather than a lump sum.

However, after that article came out, Wichmann disputed those claims.

He said that it was incorrect that he wanted an a la carte fee structure and also disputed that he had not signed the contract.

"As you know, such statements are incorrect in that although I had proposed additional fees for litigation, I had never proposed separate fees for city meetings or an a la carte fee structure," Wichmann wrote in an email to Haney. "Additionally, I have signed the contract originally proposed by you for a flat fee with only a cost of living increase and no additional fees."

Wichmann said that he was asked by Haney to pursue more citations for code enforcement violations, foreclosures, and delinquent taxes, and because of this additional work, suggested that he should be paid more.

"I proposed to get compensated for extra work," explained Wichmann. He said that the city would recoup his additional pay through the collections.

Wichmann was working without a contract. His two-year contract expired on June 30.

The city began to seek bids from other firms late last month, and only after that did it receive a signed contract from Wichmann, which was the original contract offered to him by the city, Haney said.

Wichmann's contract was extended to January 1.

"Today (November 3) the Taylor Mill commission voted to extend City Attorney Frank Wichmann's contract through January 1, 2022," said Haney. "On that date, Frank will have served as the city's attorney for 50 years. A ceremony marking his achievement will take place at the city's December 8 commission meeting."

Gatlin Voelker will take over on January 2.

Haney said that the commission was not going to approve Wichmann's suggestion of a retainer fee plus attorney fees for different services.

"To a layman, that's what it sounded like, more of an a la carte fee structure," said Haney. "It is a more traditional way of charging, and one of the other firms who submitted a proposal has the very same charging system. The other two proposals were all inclusive. Frank did sign the contract, but commissioners held a special meeting on October 22, and another on October 27 to discuss this. At those meetings, commissioners agreed to send out for proposals. Frank signed the contract on October 28, but commissioners already had other offers come in, and the decision was made on November 3."

Mark Kreimborg, who has served as a commissioner and then mayor and then as a commissioner again, said that he worked with Wichmann for 37 years. Kreimborg, who cast the lone dissenting vote against a six-month contract for Wichmann because he wanted a longer one, said that the attorney had done a lot for the city.

"I just can't discontinue Frank's contract for a few thousand more a year," he said. "I don't think it is worth it. I am heartsick about it."

Commissioner Caroline Braden said that the city should celebrate Wichmann.  

"Frank is very easy to like," Braden said. "It's very easy to like a good person. He is a prince of a guy. We all have mixed feelings about this, but we have to take the emotion out of some things. This decision has heartstrings attached."

Mayor Dan Bell didn't like the idea either, but said that it was an issue of services versus cost.

"I value Frank as a human being and attorney," he said. "He has done a very good job with the city. But we have to be responsible for how we spend the people's money. I felt like it was time to go in a different direction. Bottom line, I voted for cost. It is nothing personal with Frank. But we would have to pay extra for every service, like $150 to $160 per hour for the services, and with the other companies, everything is included, the retainer covers everything."

Commissioner Dan Murray also spoke highly of Frank Wichmann, not just following the vote in Taylor Mill, but also when Wichmann was facing a troubled relationship with then-Erlanger Mayor Tyson Hermes. Wichmann was also attorney for that city. Murray spoke at an Erlanger city council meeting on Wichmann's behalf.

"I can't even begin to tell you how hard this has been," Murray said. "But we have to represent the citizens the best way we can. There are no hard feelings. I can see both sides of the problem. By the time Frank signed the contract, we already had the other offers. The retainer from another company covers everything, and we talked to Independence, who has the same firm, and they confirmed that there haven't been any extra charges from them. It is just good economic sense."

Wichmann was upset by the decision.

"I am disappointed, obviously," he said. "But the point is, they had a signed contract when the decision was made."

-Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
Photo via Wichmann & Associates