Park City appoints a special counsel — but not a Robert Mueller-like figure
March 1, 2019
Park City on Thursday appointed a special counsel to assist the Marsac Building on a range of issues in the months after the resignation of one of City Hall's own attorneys, tapping someone who currently holds one of the top public-sector legal posts in the state.
Margaret Plane is the city attorney in Salt Lake City. It is the capital city government's highest attorney position. She has been the city attorney for six years and has spent 12 years overall in the office of the Salt Lake City attorney. She is scheduled to depart the Salt Lake City position on March 8. Her duties as the special counsel for Park City begin on March 11.
Plane briefly addressed the elected officials on Thursday as she was appointed, talking about her background in high-profile legal issues in Salt Lake City. Her work has included legal issues like disability rights and topics related to gender identity. A biography released by City Hall indicated she also was the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.
Mark Harrington, the Park City attorney, told the elected officials Plane brings a "very esteemed background" to Park City. The City Council's unanimous vote to appoint Plane received a round of applause.
"How did we get so lucky," City Councilor Lynn Ware Peek said.
City Hall agreed to a salary of $150,000 annually and she will be eligible for the municipal government's benefits plan. The position will be requested on a long-term basis as part of the upcoming budget talks.
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Plane will be given a broad workload, including managing litigation and providing legal advisement to City Hall panels. In a report drafted in anticipation of the meeting on Thursday, Harrington indicated Plane's arrival will provide himself an opportunity to spend more time on issues related to growth and development. Mayor Andy Beerman requested Harrington focus more on those issues, the report said.
The special counsel position, as outlined by City Hall, serves a different sort of role than those who hold that title in national politics, such as Robert Mueller. The City Hall special counsel is designed to support the city attorney and the municipal government's legal team rather than investigate criminal cases, the report to the elected officials outlines.
The appointment follows nearly two months after the resignation of the assistant Park City attorney, Polly Samuels McLean, after she acknowledged involvement in the disappearance of hunting equipment in the mountains outside of Summit Park. Samuels McLean in 2018 pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief and resigned in January. The resignation left Harrington's office short a key staffer. Samuels McLean's workload included duties related to planning and zoning matters.