WAUSEON - Wauseon City Council unanimously hired local attorney Eric Nagel as its prosecutor yesterday.
But council failed to pass an ordinance to hire its assistant city law director, Carrie Nixon, as its adviser on municipal law in a dispute over whether her pay should be salary or hourly.
Both the prosecuting and advisory jobs had been filled by longtime city law director Jeffrey Robinson, whose resignation is effective tonight. He begins as judge of Fulton County's Western District Court tomorrow.
Councilmen Doug Shaw and Ivan Hite cast the no votes in the 4-2 decision to hire Ms. Nixon at a salary of $29,500 a year, plus Public Employees Retirement System benefits and $7,200 for office expenses. The ordinance would have needed five votes to pass.
Mr. Hite said after the meeting that he wanted council to hire its legal adviser on an hourly basis, like its prosecutor, who is to be paid $85 an hour. He said Mr. Shaw had raised similar issues. Councilmen did not speak on the issue in the public meeting but met behind closed doors for about 50 minutes yesterday.
Mayor Jerry Dehnbostel said after the meeting that he was surprised to hear Mr. Hite and Mr. Shaw say the city might be able to save money with an hourly rate for its adviser.
"What they're basing it on, I don't know," he said.
Mr. Robinson, the city's law director for 17 years, has been paid $29,500 a year, plus retirement benefits and $8,400 a year for office expenses. His assistants, Ms. Nixon and Jan Stamm, have been paid $7,500 each.
The proposal to hire Ms. Nixon would have made the other lawyers in her firm - Terry Kaper, Mr. Stamm, and Steve Buehrer - uncompensated assistants.
Ms. Nixon has been an assistant Wauseon law director for four years, prosecuting many of its misdemeanor theft, driving while intoxicated, and domestic violence cases in the county's Western District Court.
She cannot continue to do that, however, when Mr. Robinson becomes judge because they work in the same law firm, Barber, Kaper, Stamm & Robinson, which Mr. Dehnbostel said would be a conflict of interest.
It was unclear last night what council might consider next on the issue of a municipal law adviser. Ms. Nixon and Mr. Stamm have contracts as assistants that run through the end of the year.
"I'm waiting for council to tell me what they want," Mayor Dehnbostel said. "It's in their court right now."
Mr. Nagel was hired effective immediately and is to complete Mr. Robinson's term, which expires at the end of the year. The proposal to hire Ms. Nixon was for the same period.
Ms. Nixon and Mr. Nagel are 1993 graduates of Wauseon High School.
Mr. Nagel became a partner in Hallett, Hallett, & Nagel this year, immediately after his father, Roger, left to become full-time Fulton County prosecutor. Mr. Nagel is also an assistant to his father at the prosecutor's office, working mainly with child support cases.