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Longtime lobbyist retained by PA City Council

A majority on the Port Arthur City Council decided to keep the decades of legislative experience of a legal advisor to the city rather than get rid of him.

The council voted 6 to 3 not to terminate the contract with the Parker Law Firm at their regular meeting on Tuesday night. Those voting to keep the Parker Law Firm were Mayor Derrick Freeman, Councilwoman Tiffany Hamilton, Councilman Morris Albright III, Councilman Osman Swati, Councilwoman Charlotte Moses and Councilwoman Kaprina Frank. Those voting to terminate the contract were Mayor Pro Tem Raymond Scott Jr., Councilman Keith Richard and Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis.

Lewis requested the resolution to be placed on the agenda.

He started the discussion by saying the city council has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. When he requests invoices from the law firm, he said he only gets one sheet and it doesn’t detail what work was done.

He favored hiring another attorney on the city staff to help the department and serve as the city’s prosecutor.

Parker was hired by the city 20 years ago.

“It’s nothing personal,” he said. “We can’t do it this way.”

Lewis added there are other attorneys, the Texas Municipal League and the Office of Attorney General that could help the city.

Scott said he previously asked City Attorney Val Tizeno if she could do the work the Parker Law Firm is currently doing in which she answered yes.

Tizeno said she will do whatever the assignment is.

He asked Tizeno if she was capable of finding information for the council. She answered yes.

Lewis gave as a past example there was a need to set up a tax abatement zone for the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation the city could had done, but Tizeno wasn’t asked to do so.

Albright said he would feel better about things if the city got a letter from attorney and State Rep. Joe Deshotel stating he could approach legislative committees in Austin in the middle of this session and represent Port Arthur in annexation negotiations with local industries.

“It could cost us $35 million-plus we will never get back if we lose. If we can’t annex them they (industries) don’t have to pay in lieu of taxes. We need a plan. I’m not willing to take the risk without a lobbyist,” Albright said.

Richard asked what has the Parker Law Firm done this month to earn $6,000. Tizeno said the primary thing they help with is work in the civil service commission and upcoming arbitration with the Port Arthur Police Department.

“There’s clear evidence the citizens are concerned about the $6,000. I’m a voice for the citizens,” Richard said.

Scott said this is a retainer and the firm is paid even when the Legislature is not in session.

“I don’t mind paying someone when they work. We could use him when we need him,” he said.

Hamilton said over the past three years Parker has come before the Port Arthur City Council and described his work.

She said Parker can come to the council after the session is over and answer questions.

“If we can get another staff member with 40 or 50 years of experience I would be all for that. If not, I think we’re falling backwards,” Hamilton said.

Scott said the council hasn’t given Parker any work so he should not be paid.

“This is the taxpayers’ money,” he said. “He went from originally being paid $1,500 to $6,000.”

Hamilton said she was “very, very certain” there was activity throughout the year that could be provided to Parker.

She added she can call the law firm and inquire about what type of work Parker was doing.

Scott said one councilmember doesn’t represent the entire city council and one councilmember shouldn’t be talking to the Parker Law Firm on the kind of work they do.

He added that all prior work done on annexation by Tizeno was done without help from Carl Parker.

In other council news, a new logo and slogan for the city was voted down in favor of keeping the present logo.

A full article on the logo and slogan will appear in the Thursday edition of The News.

David Ball: 409-721-2427