Watertown’s mayor concerned about city attorney transition

Published: Dec. 19, 2022 at 5:20 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - It has been nearly 30 years since the city of Watertown has been tasked with finding a new attorney.

Robert Slye is set to leave at the end of the year to begin serving as the principal law clerk for state Supreme Court Judge James McClusky.

The transition worries Mayor Jeff Smith.

“There’s a lot of institutional knowledge that is going to be lost and left. Just basic things from ‘yeah, we dealt with that a long time ago, and those are the facts.’ Somebody new coming in is going to have to learn all of that,” said Smith.

City Manager Ken Mix will send out requests for proposals to attorneys who may want the job on a permanent basis.

“We’ll probably put out for some RFPs for people to respond to and give us proposals, and then council will pick the proposal they like,” said Smith.

But in the short-term, council will pick an interim city attorney.

Legally, Slye will not be able to represent the city past December 31, meaning the city could be without an attorney for a few days into the new year.

Mix says it will likely be discussed on January 3, if not before then, in a special meeting.

Smith says some names floated have been from Syracuse-based law firms Bond, Schoeneck, and King and Harris Beach.

As for a more permanent attorney, Council Member Cliff Olney has criteria he says the city hasn’t been meeting.

“We want good legal advice. We want just a legal opinion and a truth so we can actually make decisions based on that. I think the hardest thing so far has been a lot of times what I’ve seen in the course of the year is more of a political opinion rather than honest to God legal facts,” he said.

Slye’s position may not be the only one city council will need to fill at the start of the new year. Council Member Sarah Compo Pierce tells 7 News she’s considering taking over Scott Gray’s seat on the Jefferson County Legislature when he heads to Albany in January.