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City attorney responds to council’s decision to terminate his contract

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 12:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 12:25 p.m. CDT

On Monday night, The Newton City Council voted to terminate the contract of long-time city attorney Darrin Hamilton. It was not a surprise to him, but he was not happy to hear the news.

“I had been aware that this had been in process for a long time,” Hamilton said. “I am not surprised by the decision. They’ve been looking at this issue since April of 2012. When it got to where it was on the agenda — the odds were very high that it would be approved.”

“At the end of the day, the resolution did say that they were happy with my services and it is not a reflection on me,” Hamilton said. “It wasn’t as if they were saying, ‘We’re not happy with what you’re doing or how you’re doing it.’ It’s a belief that they will save money.”

He understands the council’s decision to save money, and even shared his thoughts to the council before their vote.

“I have provided the city council, some time back, with my analysis of it, and they know what I believe,” Hamilton said. “They have their belief and time will tell. It will truly be a factual matter as to whether there is cost savings. I was happy that a decision was made one way or the other.”

“They believe that they are going to save money through the outsourcing of the legal functions,” Hamilton said. “They have a fiduciary duty to do what is the best interest of the taxpayers. With that belief, they approved the elimination of my position that I hold, and it looks like they will be making some changes.”

The next chapter in his life is a mystery, but he did express interest in politics. Hamilton served on the Newton Community School Board, which went through a budget crisis itself when he served.

“I had ran and served for one term on the Newton Community School Board.” Hamilton said. “I have always mentioned that I would have loved to serve on the city council or run for State House or State Senate. I have to figure out what I am doing for employment first, and where I am living before I decide to run for office.”

Councilor Dennis Julius was opposed to Hamilton’s termination, and Hamilton understands that a decision like the termination of his contract must have been awkward for many of the members.

“I’m sure they weren’t comfortable,” Hamilton said. “They could of excused me, I guess, but I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant or easy. It was probably awkward.”

Like many other citizens who lost their jobs when Maytag closed, Hamilton will be out of a job. The only difference is that he will receive a severance pay package, which he is grateful for.

“Unlike a lot of people who’ve suffered a job loss in the community over the years, I get a severance,” Hamilton said. “So I have a little cushion before things become a little more challenging.”

Hamilton clarified that his leaving the council chamber was previously discussed with Mayor Michael Hansen.

“My leaving was not me storming off or a statement,” Hamilton said.

The council’s decision marks a major change not only for him, but for the department as well. The new attorney will be paid by the hour which could provide an issue for the city, but he wishes the city the best.

“It has made a department that had a lot of challenges more challenging,” Hamilton said. “I wish things well. I am still a member of the community, and I hope things go well because if things do, it means the community is going well.”

He is not opposed to the idea of being offered his old job back. There would be other factors, but Hamilton said anything is possible.

“It has been a privilege and an honor to have the opportunity to serve the citizens in Newton as city attorney for 14 years,” Hamilton said. “I now have the opportunity to start a new chapter in my life, and at this point I don’t know what that will hold — whether it’s practicing law or being able to stay here in Newton or somewhere in the U.S., or really anywhere in the world.”

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at mshepard@newtondailynews.com.

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