After an executive session last week, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted to move forward with selecting an in-house attorney and chose two finalists out of the three previously interviewed.
The two finalists are Monroe Lynn Frey III, an attorney from Brunswick, and Richard H. Stancil, the Hiawassee city manager.
According to Frey's resume, he has more than 35 years of experience in civil practice. He received a bachelor's degree in religion at Emory University in 1977 and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Georgia in 1980.
In addition to previously working for a law firm in Brunswick, Frey was the city attorney there from 1998 to 2011.
Frey left the city in 2011, "when the City Commission decided to outsource its legal services... in an effort to cope with a dwindling revenue stream."
Since leaving the city commission, Frey has worked in a civil practice. In his resume he outlined his reason for applying for the Dawson County position.
"Although I have enjoyed having more time with my family, I find that I need a more steady revenue stream, as well as the intellectual stimulation of working on legal matter for people or an organization which has a shared sense of purpose, a mission, not merely a mission statement," Frey wrote. "From what I have seen of the current direction of Dawson County and of the progress within the community, it certainly appears your government has such a mission ... "
According to Stancil's resume, he has worked as the Hiawassee city manager since 2007. He was also the city attorney from 1997 to 2009.
From 1997 to 2007, Stancil also practiced as an attorney in his own law firm, Richard H. Stancil P.C. Previously he worked in other law firms and at the office of the governor as a communications director and as an executive assistant to then Governor Joe Frank Harris.
He received a bachelor of science and political science degree from North Georgia College in 1978 and a Juris Doctorate degree from Samford University in 1982.
Stancil applied for the Dawsonville city manager position in September after now-County Manager David Headley left that position. Bob Bolz was ultimately selected for the job.
After the commission came out of its Jan. 19 executive session, District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix made the motion to narrow the finalists down to Frey and Stancil. The motion was seconded by District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby and passed in a 3-1 vote, with District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines voting against.
Newly-elected Gaines said on Friday that he did not feel he had done enough research to justify a decision just yet.
"I feel that this is such an important position that I want to ensure I have vetted each option and candidate to the best of my abilities and at this point there still remains information that I have yet to receive and digest," Gaines said.
The commission interviewed three applicants on Jan. 12, after deciding in December that they would like to search for an alternative to the current contract with County Attorney Joey Homans.
A committee met on Dec. 12 to draft a scope of work and job description so that the county could advertise a job opening. The job posting went live on the county's website after the Dec. 13 voting session and all applications had to be in by 5 p.m. on Jan. 4.
According to Chairman Billy Thurmond, the commissioner's intended to interview all four of the people who applied, but one dropped out at the last minute.
Thurmond said that the next thing the commission will do is continue to gather information on the candidates. He says they will have both Frey and Stancil draft an implementation and transition plan for how they would manage taking over the position from Homans.
"There will be additional interviews," Thurmond said. "We're continuing to look at options and will try to make the best decision for the citizens."
Homans has continued to work in his capacity of county attorney although his appointment officially ended Dec. 31.
"I'm still operating as usual until instructed otherwise," Homans said on Friday.
Three commissioners, Fausett, Hamby and Nix, said in December that their only motive for searching for a staff attorney was to save taxpayer money.
Hamby said Friday they haven't budged from that stance.
"It's only ever been about the money," Hamby said.
Numbers on the potential in-house attorney's salary have not been released.
The county paid $190,673.64 to Homan's firm for legal services in 2015 and $180,316.19 in 2016, and has budgeted over $232,000 for 2017.
Homans has been charging the county $160 an hour as opposed to the $150 an hour he charged last year, a change which he says he notified them of in a letter last spring.
Commissioners also disclosed no plans about the possibility of additional personnel, such as a legal secretary or paralegal, as well as office space and furnishing, to accompany an in-house attorney.
The process for selecting the new attorney is not set in stone, according to the commissioners.
"We're going to look at [the applicants] and re-interview them, evaluate each one," Hamby said, agreeing that no one is certain what route the commission will eventually take."
However, the county has placed a legal notice that they are providing at least 14 calendar days before the Feb. 2 voting session for the records of Frey and Stancil to be available to the public, during which final action or vote is to be taken on the county attorney position.
The Feb. 2 voting session will be held at 6 p.m. in the Dawson County Government Center.
As always the meeting is open to the public.