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Town board agrees to hire local law firm

Pahrump town officials call it a win-win-situation for all involved.

Board members on Tuesday voted to retain the services of local law firm Stovall &Associates while continuing a relationship with the town’s present legal counsel, Armstrong Teasdale, a Reno law firm.

In a unanimous vote, the board gave approval to have both law firms represent the town in legal matters.

Last December, Stovall &Associates representatives gave a presentation regarding the firm’s ability to provide local assistance on a case by case basis.

Pahrump Town Manager Susan Holecheck noted that town staff realizes actionable situations may occur where local counsel may be the best option.

“I do believe in the ‘shop locally’ concept. I still think that there may yet be instances where we could use Stovall. A recent example would be the individual who lives here and brought a suit against the town and previous town manager. To me, that seems like a great opportunity where our Pool/Pact could represent the town. Since we owe the previous town manager a defense, Stovall could represent the town manager, who was an employee,” she said.

Former town board candidate Anthony Greco ran unsuccessfully for the Pahrump Town Board in the 2010 election but failed to make it past the primary. He unsuccessfully sued former Town Manager Bill Kohbarger and Fire Chief Scott Lewis, accusing both and the town board of violating privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, (HIPAA).

He also included a claim about the arson investigation that unfolded after an August 2010 house fire, which prosecutors believe was intentionally set to collect on the home’s insurance.

Holecheck made certain to add the action should not necessarily cost the town additional money.

“I don’t think so because Armstrong Teasdale are on a retainer with us and they attend town board meetings, but if there are new legal matters that arise, they would charge for those whether they are charging for them or Stovall &Associates is charging, we still have to pay regardless. This would be done on a case by case basis. We are not asking you to break the retainer with Armstrong Teasdale. We are not asking you to enter into a retainer with Stovall &Associates. We’re just asking you that if the situation presents itself to outsource on a particular matter, would you be comfortable with this firm in doing so?” she asked.

With offices in Las Vegas and Pahrump, Stovall &Associates has more than 35 years of trial experience. Clients include individuals, businesses and professional organizations.

Principal and proprietor Leslie Mark Stovall told the board that his firm can offer a fee that is substantially lower than what his firm would normally charge.

“We agreed and offered to bill our hourly rate at $225 per hour. That is substantially lower than our customer rate. I bill my time depending on cases from $450 to $750 per hour. My associate time is generally billed at $350 an hour. We felt we could offer a lower rate so that the township would have the opportunity to save some money on attorney fees should you choose to ask us to help in any manner. I would also tell you that time is stock and trade for a lawyer but certainly anytime board members or town administration call and seek information, we are glad to talk about what we’re doing without billing you for it,” he said.

Stovall was quick to enumerate his firm’s experience in municipal law when asked by board member Amy Riches.

His response spoke to several on-going issues now facing the town.

“We have worked in land use, zoning and licensing issues not just in municipal in relation to towns and cities but also in state and federal matters. We have worked with BLM on land use issues. I have done condemnation matters, constitutionality of ordinances and actions by states, cities and towns. Here in Pahrump, I have been involved in negotiating not with the town board but with the county on commercial leases for various entities,” Stovall said.

Riches, meanwhile, said she initially had serious reservations about bringing Stovall &Associates on board to help represent the town.

According to a legal fee summary, the town spent more than $213,000 with Armstrong Teasdale exclusively on legal services this most recent fiscal year.

It should also be noted that the firm does not bill for traveling expenses when attending regular town board meetings.

“This weighed very heavy on my mind because I don’t believe in changing horses mid-stream. On the other hand, it’s my job to help save the town money. I understand I don’t have to make an either-or-choice, so I am much more comfortable with it. Like Susan said, If Armstrong Teasdale is busy, we would have the ability to pick up the phone and call Mr. Stovall,” Riches said.

Holecheck also noted that Armstrong Teasdale would be the town’s primary legal counsel if litigation matters should arise.

“This is on a case by case basis. To be very honest with you, I would always talk to our attorney Bret Meich first. We want to make sure that our relationship is solid. The issues Armstrong Teasdale helps us with are everyday issues so there will still be plenty of work for both. This is in no way a reflection of Armstrong/Teasdale. We get such great representation from them. They do excellent legal work for us and I have enjoyed the relationship with them tremendously. Even Stovall &Associates have said wonderful things about them and they are in no way trying to undermine them at all,” she said.

Stovall established his Las Vegas office in August 1987 and opened an office in Pahrump in November of 2008.

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