Taneytown officials hire firm to replace veteran solicitor

March 01, 2000|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

For more than 20 years, Taneytown officials have relied on the same lawyer, Thomas Stansfield of Westminster, to guide them through the ins and outs of planning, zoning and lawmaking.

But in January, Stansfield resigned as Taneytown city attorney to devote more time to his expanded private practice. The City Council has hired the Baltimore-based firm Miles & Stockbridge, which also has offices in Frederick.

Stansfield, with his signature bow tie and suspenders, has been a fixture at council and zoning meetings, and has been attending them longer than any of the current elected officials.

"He was there when I got there," said Mayor Henry C. Heine, who entered Taneytown politics in 1978 on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Stansfield, 49, had been in practice for three years when Taneytown called on him to handle a major case.

"A police chief was accused of and finally removed from office for having planted dope on a suspect," Stansfield said.

After the case was over, the council appointed him city attorney.

In Stansfield's place will be Anne-Herbert Rollins, an attorney with Miles & Stockbridge firm and former city attorney for Frederick. She is based at the firm's Frederick office. The city will also be able to call on Miles & Stockbridge's resources in municipal issues.

"Now that we were looking for someone, we were looking for a firm that had experience in a variety of areas," Heine said.

City Manager Chip Boyles said Taneytown had used Miles & Stockbridge to handle bond issues.

What Taneytown might gain in the broadness of a large firm, it might lose in the kind of on-the-spot answer Stansfield was often able to provide from memory.

City officials don't expect the change to increase the city's legal bills. In the past few years, the city has made an effort to cut legal fees, which peaked at $37,000 in 1995. Last summer, the council set its spending limit for legal fees at $21,000 for fiscal 2000.

Although Rollins will attend meetings, other lawyers from the firm might handle specific issues, Boyles said. No person will hold the title "city attorney," as Stansfield had.

The City Charter allows the council to appoint a person city attorney, but does not require that a person hold that office.

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