Sutherland City Council meeting

Sutherland City Council member Chase Cox opens and reads the four bids submitted to lease farmland as council member Johanna Homan and mayor Kay Gifford listen. The council accepted a bid of $305 per acre from Craig Swanson during its meeting Monday, Feb. 3.

SUTHERLAND—Approving a two-year contract for a city attorney was on the Sutherland City Council’s agenda during its Monday, Feb. 3, meeting.

The council voted to approve Thor Klinker to represent the city for the next two years. Klinker is the son of Bill Klinker, who was the city’s previous attorney.

The father-son pair practices out of the Primghar law firm Smith, Grigg, Shea & Klinker, P.C., which has long represented Sutherland.

“Over the last couple of years, I have inquired just loosely to find an attorney that’s willing to take on municipal, especially not familiar with us,” said mayor Kay Gifford. “There seemed to be no interest.”

Because the city’s ordinance states the contracts for its city attorneys run for two years, Gifford said the council could not simply approve an attorney for one year and then look for a replacement for the following year.

“But after, if we approve this one, before this one is up next time in two years, we can start looking,” said council member Bruce Engelke.

Gifford agreed with that point.

“What we should be doing is actually start actively looking now, which is something anybody can inquire about,” she said. “I would imagine that you could mutually dissolve the relationship at any time if you found somebody that was better, whatever.”

Gifford clarified the search for a new attorney was not due to the council’s dissatisfaction with the law firm; rather, Bill Klinker had simply wanted to step aside as the city’s attorney.

She added Thor Klinker has knowledge regarding zoning and weed and debris, which would be a benefit to Sutherland when legal issues arose in those areas.

Since Sutherland has pending legal infractions the law firm has been working with it on, Gifford was hesitant to change Sutherland’s legal representation.

“I don’t like being without a city attorney that’s working on our stuff right now. That makes me uncomfortable,” she said.

Engelke agreed and expressed his support for passing the resolution to make Thor Klinker the city attorney. Council member Chase Cox echoed that sentiment, but asked if the council could do a performance evaluation of sorts on the law firm in a year.

Gifford responded by saying the city still would be mandated to keep the law firm on for the two-year period. Engelke added that if the council wanted to change that time frame, it would need to vote to amend the ordinance, a process which would require three readings.

The mayor pointed out the council could waive one or two of the readings to speed up the process; however, Engelke reiterated his support for approving Thor Klinker and made the motion for council to do so.

This story was first published in the Feb. 15 issue of The South O'Brien Sun.