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Rambo wants full-time attorney job

Next week, Washington County commissioners will consider a unanimous recommendation from the Legal Services Oversight Committee to transition County Attorney John Rambo to in-house counsel, effective Nov. 1.
Rambo has represented the county since 1999 on a contract basis. A private act approved earlier this year allows the county to create a legal office and make the attorney a full-time staff member.
When the committee reconvened Aug. 16, Rambo presented a job description for the county legal director that included his own experience and qualifications.
The proposed budget for the legal services department sets the salary for the position at $148,500.
Commissioner Mark Larkey made the motion to recommend Rambo and the budget for the position to the full commission. Commissioner George “Skip” Oldham provided the second.
According to the recently revised structure, Rambo said the county attorney is hired by the commission, but responsible for providing general counsel to all departments.
“The biggest thing for the county attorney this fall is setting up the environmental court,” Rambo said.
A close second on the priority list is updating the personnel policies.
“Our personnel policies are 14 years old, and we can’t rely on the county officials to ensure compliance,” Mayor Dan Eldridge said. “The county has a huge amount of exposure.”
Eldridge said a human resources officer is needed to ensure compliance and recommended that employee, if hired, serve under the county attorney.
Space for the prospective in-house counsel could be made available on the second floor of the courthouse in the area designated for the mayor’s offices, according to Eldridge who expects the move to be completed by December.
Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford said the County-Owned Property Committee is the body with the authority to make that decision, and encouraged Rambo to attend the next meeting.
Rambo reviewed a breakdown of the proposed budget for operating expenses, which totals almost $300,000, and noted several advantages to moving to in-house counsel.
“Your costs are fixed, you can budget for it,” he said. “You’ll spend less time tracking expenses and more time on legal (work),” he said.
Committee members had some additional ideas for ways the county attorney could be of service.
“It’s no secret that you receive the information (for the monthly commission packets) and we copy it. Would you be willing to take on some of this?” Rutherford asked.
Commissioner Doyle Cloyd asked if Rambo would take the minutes of the commission meetings so the county clerk didn’t have to do it, and also take the minutes for the committee meetings.
Rutherford then suggested Rambo manage the employee benefits program, prompting Oldham to express concern regarding the size of the workload.