Palmer Davis Appointed City Attorney

Three months after naming Palmer Davis interim city attorney, city commissioners are poised to remove the “interim” from his title Tuesday. UPDATE: Commissioners voted unanimously to promote Davis to city attorney.

Davis’ interim appointment in October came with a 90-day evaluation period — for him to determine whether he liked the top job in the city legal department and for commissioners to decide whether they were comfortable with him there.

Mayor Bill Mutz reminded the rest of the board at a Friday work session that the three-month evaluation period is ending, and all commissioners and Davis agreed at the meeting that Davis is right for the job.

A contract for Davis’ employment will be up for a vote at Tuesday afternoon’s City Commission meeting. It calls for a salary of $165,000 a year plus a $5,400-a-year vehicle allowance.

Davis’ 2019 salary as an assistant city attorney was $136,432. A graduate of the University of Florida College of Law and a member of the Florida Bar since 1990, he has been on the Lakeland City Attorney’s staff for nearly two decades.

Davis, 55, was appointed interim city attorney last Oct. 18 following the abrupt resignation of former City Attorney Tim McCausland. McCausland had been arrested Oct. 9 on suspicion of “precursor acts facilitating prostitution.” He has pleaded not guilty.

After his resignation, commissioners discovered that McCausland had been serving without a formal contract. They resolved to draft one for McCausland’s successor based on the contract in place for City Manager Tony Delgado, the only other city employee who reports directly to the commission.

One of Davis’ first priorities: hiring a new assistant city attorney to fill his now-vacant position. In recent years, the City Attorney’s Office has been staffed by three full-time attorneys, but it’s been down to two — Davis and Assistant City Attorney Ramona Sirianni — since McCausland’s departure.

The city legal staff is supplemented by a handful of attorneys who are contracted for litigation and specialties such as labor negotiations. Davis said Friday he intends to keep that system in place, saying it is more efficient that hiring a fourth full-time attorney, especially since the need for outside counsel fluctuates month-to-month.

City Manager Delgado praised both Davis and Sirianni and said he will talk with Davis about ways to build the legal team’s capacity to handle day-to-day work surrounding collective bargaining agreements.

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