The Fairmont City Council held a work session Monday night. A. major point of contention was the action of two council members — Randy Lubenow and Tom Hawkins — who met recently with Elizabeth “Libby” Bloomquist, who has served as City Attorney for 30 years, to inform her that her services might no longer be needed.
At the start of the session, Mayor Debbie Foster read an April 4 email sent from Hawkins to Mike Humpal, city administrator, who then forwarded the email to the rest of the council members. It stated Councilor Lubenow and I went to see Libby today. We informed her that we were going to propose to the council that we will be changing our attorney services from in-house counsel to contract, effectively terminating her.”
Two council members have no authority to do anything,” Foster said.
She then asked the remaining council members — Wayne Hasek, Bruce Peters and Ruth Cyphers — to see if they had prior knowledge of the meeting with the City Attorney, and all answered no.
“I think it is appropriate,” Hawkins said about the meeting with Bloomquist. “I got advice on how to proceed, and I think it is appropriate for two council members to take an action. You might believe it’s unethical, but I don’t think it’s unethical.”
Hawkins said he and Lubenow did not intend to tell Bloomquist she was terminated, that it would be a council decision, and they were ready to go to the council for a vote to move to contract services.
Six of the city’s department heads and Capt. Eric Tonder of the Fairmont Police Department addressed the council. Some had worked in communities that did not have an in-house attorney. All spoke of the efficiency of having an accessible in-house counsel and how it enabled them to be more productive in their jobs and how their work was more timely.
A vote on in-house versus contract legal services will not be on the council’s April 22 agenda, but the council will go into closed session for Bloomquist’s performance review.