Cain Smith, who has been assistant solicitor to the Statesboro Municipal Court for nearly three years, will be city attorney beginning Thursday.
Last week City Council unanimously approved a $39,000 interim contract for Smith to serve from Dec. 15 through June 30.
“Probably about three months in, we’ll have a meeting to discuss how things are proceeding, if this is the way that we think you want the legal services to continue,” City Manager Randy Wetmore told council members.
This is J. Alvin Leaphart IV’s last work week as Statesboro’s city attorney, a position he has held since December 2011. His contract from May 2014 was for an $80,000 annual salary and gave him a recognized right to do work for other clients while city attorney.
He recently resigned to take the job of county attorney for Los Alamos County, New Mexico, beginning Jan. 3.
Along with the city manager and city clerk, Statesboro’s city attorney is one of three staff members hired directly by the council. Other department chiefs are hired by the city manager.
The city attorney advises the council, mayor and city staff on legal issues and represents the city in court, except when the city or its insurers hire outside lawyers for major litigation. Leaphart drafted ordinances and regulations, reviewed those drafted by other staff members, and reviewed city contracts.
Officially, Leaphart was also the solicitor, or chief prosecutor of cases in the city court. But the workload is too much for one lawyer to do both jobs, city officials have said.
“The city attorney is the appointed solicitor, but the assistant solicitor handles the day-to-day court operations of prosecuting Statesboro Police Department misdemeanor charges,” Smith explained.
While assuming the city attorney responsibilities, Smith is expected to continue as the Municipal Court prosecutor through January.
“Cain will be bringing forward, probably in February, a name for the assistant solicitor,” Wetmore said.
During January, Smith will be working with someone trying out for that position, he said.
Smith, 40, originally from Albany, went to the University of Georgia for his bachelor’s degree. He is a 2003 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa. But his parents went to Georgia Southern University, and he has always been a Southern fan, he said.
After concluding their Dec. 6 meeting, the mayor and council joined city employees, local attorneys and other well-wishers in a farewell reception for Leaphart. A table of snacks and a cake the shape of New Mexico, with the colors and symbol from its flag, were brought into the council chamber.
In what council members remarked was a replay from a recent wedding, Leaphart’s bride, Erica, stood beside him as he cut the cake. They were married in a private ceremony at St. Marys the weekend after Thanksgiving and will now be driving to Los Alamos.
Mayor Jan Moore praised Leaphart’s work as “helpful in turning the course of Statesboro in the right way.”
Leaphart advised the council during protracted efforts to upgrade the city’s alcoholic beverages law after deadly violence at two nightclubs. The city is now facing a lawsuit over the manslaughter death of an 18-year-old GSU student in 2014 at a third nightclub.
In unrelated matters, during Leaphart’s tenure City Council fired a city manager, who then sued the city, and a former council member is now serving federal prison time after pleading guilty to extortion.
“I hope that you don’t go through another five years like this,” Moore told Leaphart. “That is my hope, but I’m certainly glad that the five years that you did go through like this, you were with us.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.