Two city lawyers -- Dale Clift, the city attorney, and Jeff Steeg, an assistant city attorney -- turned in letters of resignation today because, they said, they could not afford the part-time positions unless the city began offering them health care.
Both resignations are effective June 1.
City Councilor Mike Rimcoski said he understands the decision made by the pair and isn't sure what will happen.
"I just don't like being forced into a corner," Rimcoski said.
Rimcoski said that he wants to talk with the rest of the council about the issue "and see if there's anything we can do."
The city attorney's office has two full-time lawyers, Richard Lacey and Ann Baldwin, and three part-time posts, including the city attorney's slot. But one of those posts has been empty for months because they council has refused to consider Mayor Art Ward's choice for it, Edward Krawiecki, Jr, a former city attorney.
If Clift and Steeg step down, all three part-time lawyer jobs would be vacant, leaving only the two full-timers.
Rimcoski said that if Clift and Steeg depart, Ward might wind up having to pay outside lawyers -- at a cost that could easily exceed the cost of health care coverage -- in order to ensure Bristol's legal work gets done.
"Two people can't handle it all," Rimcoski said.
Rimcoski said he anticipates the discussion about how to handle the situation may take place in executive session. It may be too late to add one to tonight's meeting, he said.
Ward could not be reached for comment.
In Clift's resignation letter, the city attorney said the workload "exceeds what I can provide. The modest compensation, without benefits, and the time these duties take away from my private law practice have presented a financial dilemma that I must resolve, regretfully, by leaving."
Clift has been city attorney for more than a year. Before that, he served more than a dozen years as an assistant city attorney.
Steeg, who works with Clift in private practice, has been an assistant city attorney for nine years.
His resignation letter states that he has to give up his position with "a heavy heart" because of "the lack of health insurance benefits offered by the city."
Steeg also pointed out in his letter that some other part-time city workers and even some non-city employees do get coverage.
"I have to work morefiles and generate more income from my private office in order to pay for the skyrocketing cost of health insurance," Steeg wrote.
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