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City of Polson hires legal staff

POLSON – More than a month after the former city attorney resigned, the Polson City Commission appointed a city attorney and an assistant city attorney to take on the city’s legal needs. Attorney Clinton Fischer is the new city attorney and Joshua Morigeau is the new assistant city attorney.

The city attorney position has been vacant since former city attorney Rich Gebhardt resigned in late October. Former city engineer Shari Johnson and former city manager Mark Shrives also left their positions around the same time, leaving the city with a void in integral leadership positions. Without a city manager, the city was unable to appoint a city attorney. Police Chief Wade Nash was appointed interim city manager on Nov. 13. 

The Dec. 3 meeting was the first where Nash was present in his new role as interim city manager. He said that Fischer was his first choice for city attorney. 

“I think he’s an individual that’s lived in our community for many years. He’s practiced law and has the expertise to work through critical and tough situations. He’s an individual of good moral character,” Nash said.

Fischer practices in Polson and has been a lawyer for 41 years. He was city attorney in the 1990s when John Gleuckert was mayor. Fischer signed a one-year contract and will be paid $42,000 annually.

“I felt an obligation to the city. They needed help and I could provide it,” Fischer said. “I appreciate their confidence in asking me to fulfill the job.” Fischer said one of his priorities would be to arrange severance pay with former city manager Mark Shrives but that he had not started working on the deal. 

Nash recommended that the commission appoint Polson attorney Joshua Morigeau as the assistant city attorney. He has experience as a criminal prosecutor. Morigeau currently works as an associate justice in the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ court. Nash said Morigeau had been terminated from his position as an attorney for the city earlier this year. Nash said he felt the situation under which Morigeau was let go had been “mishandled.”

“I feel like Josh does a good job for what we offer him,” Nash said. He added that if an issue were to arise, his contract requires just 10 days notice for termination. Nash also said that Morigeau initially turned the offer down, but Nash told him that he was “in a bind” and Morigeau agreed to take the position if approved by the commission.

“I think that Josh deserves a chance. He’s a good-hearted individual,” Nash said. “He means to help the city.”

Nash said that Morigeau’s knowledge of the city’s cases would allow him to work through the backlog of work efficiently. According to his contract, Morigeau will be compensated $2,400 per month until the city “is able to contract with an attorney for such services on a longer-term basis.” According to Nash, Morigeau said he would work for the city for three to six months before assessing whether he should remain in the role. 

The commission also voted to approve contract details with Nash for his role as city manager. A sum of $12,000 will be added to Nash’s current salary to compensate him for fulfilling city manager duties. 

 

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