Council to consider approval of contract for new city attorney (updated)

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Acting Littleton City Attorney Kirsten Crawford will likely drop the “acting” from her title after city council votes March 6 on whether to appoint her to the top spot.

A news release issued March 1 by the city left little doubt that the vote will be in Crawford’s favor.

“The city council is thrilled to welcome Kirsten as our city attorney,” Mayor Debbie Brinkman said in the release. “She is a skilled litigator with exceptional experience in municipal law. Over the past three years, she has done exemplary work as our assistant and then acting city attorney. Kirsten is as passionate about her work as she is committed to Littleton, and we are looking forward to a bright future together.”

The position was the topic of at least two recent executive sessions, though council originally said there would be a public study session on the process to replace former City Attorney Suzanne Staiert, whom council fired last September on the same day she filed an EEOC complaint against the city. This week, Staiert became the state’s new deputy secretary of state.

“The council discussed, in executive session pursuant to state law, options for negotiating for a contract attorney and in house,” City Manager Michael Penny said in an e-mail to the Littleton Independent. “The council, as you now see, chose to stay with an in-house attorney.”

Traditionally, council has retained the headhunter firm Mercer Group to search for their appointees, as they did with Staiert and Penny.

“Council chose not to use a search firm,” said Penny. “The council was very pleased with Kirsten’s background and interview and decided to move forward with a contract offer to her for the position.”

In the news release, Crawford said she is looking forward to the challenge.

“I am so excited at the opportunity to guide the city council and staff through the myriad of legal matters encountered in local government,” she said. “The leadership provided by the city council and city manager, combined with the skill and the dedication of our employees, make Littleton one of the best cities in Colorado to live and work.”

Crawford’s appointment rounds out a string of changes at the upper levels of the city during the last year, including Penny, who replaced Jim Woods after he retired last year. Glen Van Nimwegen took over the community-development department that same month. After the November elections, Brinkman replaced Doug Clark as mayor, and Bruce Beckman and Jerry Valdes joined council. Phil Cortese, former deputy city manager, resigned in December.

“The city organization is moving forward on all cylinders,” Penny said. “I believe morale is up and staff is excited to be coming to work and providing an excellent level of service to the community. The council is focused on the challenges and incredible opportunities ahead for all of us.”

Finding a new assistant city attorney will be the topic of a discussion between the city council and city attorney, said Penny.

“We would expect this to be a collaborative approach with all, including the city manager,” he said.

Staiert hired Crawford as the assistant city attorney in January 2009, and she’s been the acting city attorney since October 2011. She was an assistant attorney for Arapahoe County from 2004 to 2008.

Prior to that, she worked with the Adams County Attorney’s Office and in private practice. She at one time was a judicial clerk for the Honorable Raymond Dean Jones with the Colorado Court of Appeals. 

Crawford earned her juris doctor from the University of Denver College of Law. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Asian studies from DePauw University and is a graduate of Kansai Gaidai, University of Foreign Studies in Osaka, Japan.

Crawford’s annual salary will be $133,428.

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