Following the Statesboro City Council's decision to create a staff attorney position and combine its responsibilities with that of the city solicitor post, City Manager Shane Haynes promoted from within to fill the position.
Human Resources Director Michael L. Graves, who has been with the city for approximately six months, assumed the role of staff attorney March 1 and has already appeared in municipal court in his role as city solicitor. Haynes said Graves' education, professional experience and time with the city made him a great candidate for the position.
"(Graves) has already displayed an ability to be an astute and reasoned thinker, which is certainly one of the things we were looking for in that role, as he'll be providing legal advice and opinions to the mayor and council, the city manager and other department heads," Haynes said. "We just felt overall that he was a great fit for this role and I know the mayor and council have also grown to respect and appreciate Michael and his abilities since he's been with us.
"A big advantage for us is that he'll be available on a day-to-day basis to draft resolutions and ordinance amendments, provide legal opinion and research. It will be a great resource for us to have on staff."
Graves said he's excited at the opportunity to be the city's first staff attorney and echoed Haynes sentiment that having a full-time attorney on staff will benefit the city.
"When you have someone on staff full-time, their complete focus is going to be on city services and city issues," Graves said. "I believe the access to legal services is going to be greater than ever and city employees will certainly benefit from having a full time attorney on staff."
Haynes said Graves' duties over the next few months include looking at cleaning up inconsistencies in the city charter and ordinances, drafting ordinances and resolutions, training staff on human resource issues and offering opinions to staff and council on various legal matters. Graves said he has nearly finished a comprehensive update of the city's personnel manual, which should bring it up-to-date with current federal guidelines.
By consolidating the city solicitor position into the role of staff attorney, Haynes said the city should see a net annual savings of approximately $50,000 in the cost of its legal services. The city will look to fill the role of human resources director, vacated by Graves, in the coming weeks.
The city will retain the services of City Attorney Sam Brannen, who will continue to advise on potential litigation and will serve as the parliamentarian during council meetings.
Though his day to day role will diminish, Haynes said with Brannen's depth of experience in city matters, it only made sense to keep him on retainer.
"All of his years of institutional knowledge...we certainly didn't want to lose that," Haynes said. "We recognize and appreciate Sam and his dutiful years of service to the city."
Graves said Brannen's 43 years of experience as city attorney will be of great value as he transitions into his new position.
"I'm sure (Brannen) is going to be a great mentor in terms of learning the ins and outs of municipal law and the inner workings of the city," Graves said. "He has broad experience in the drafting of easements and municipal contracts, so he's going to make himself available to help me with those issues, as well as continuing to advise council about the legality of their decisions during meetings."
Brannen was appointed city attorney first in 1966.