Gahanna voters will choose either Raymond Mularski or Tricia Sprankle as their new city attorney on Nov. 5.
Shane Ewald, who was elected city attorney in 2011, decided not to seek reelection.
Mularski of Creekside Green Drive has served as Gahanna's prosecutor for over 30 years.
Sprankle of Cordero Lane said she's prepared to meet the challenges presented as Gahanna's next city attorney, having 20 years' experience in complex business transactions and representing clients with honesty and integrity.
ThisWeek Rocky Fork Enterprise posed three questions to each candidate regarding the city attorney role, asking that responses be limited to 200 words.
What do you believe makes you qualified for the job as city attorney?
Mularski: I have 35 years' courtroom experience and have been protecting the citizens of Gahanna, as prosecutor, for over 30 years. I'm steady under pressure, can think on my feet, am logical and fair. I am the founding partner in a firm with 10 attorneys and 25 total employees. We handle all facets of the law, including a partner with 36 years' business experience, and a combined over 70 years of civil litigation. This repertoire of talent I have to pull from makes it so that I can address all things that come before the city attorney and keep more issues in house, saving the city money. Being a trial attorney is invaluable for handling the prosecution aspect of the job. It also allows me to be a big part in any litigation, for which the city is involved. Even if a matter calls for the expertise of outside counsel, my litigation experience will allow me to oversee the case and to understand the complexities and evidentiary issues involved. I won't just turn a case over to outside counsel, I will be able to help and guide them and to have a knowledgeable final say in the outcome.
Sprankle: The transition to city attorney will require minor adjustments compared to my obligation to any business I have represented in my career. My management and legal experience are my qualifications. I will be providing guidance to a wide variety of departments with an even wider variety of legal issues. I will review our code and other documents for compliance, consult with staff regarding budgetary items, supervise outside counsel, and provide legal opinions to decision makers. I will undertake these duties with energy and enthusiasm. Most important, however, is the special duty I will have to the residents of Gahanna. While some sensitive information is properly withheld, I will strive to keep the public informed and maintain lines of communication to all. Public servants need to remember whom they are serving.
Are there any instances that you can recall within the city of Gahanna in the past decade that you, as the city attorney, would have approached differently? Or do you recall a case that you thought the city attorney handled well and you would have advised the same course of action? Explain.
Mularski: The previous city attorneys were not litigators. I am. The job of city attorney is half civil and half prosecution. With my 30-plus years as prosecutor for the city of Gahanna, I will be able to bring the prosecution portion back in house. This will enable me to use the funds that are currently being paid out for prosecution, to hire an assistant city attorney. My assistant will be able to help with both the prosecution and civil aspects, resulting in Gahanna having two lawyers in the city attorney's office, without any increase in cost. With the new tax law in effect, it will be essential to manage the growth of the city, to balance residential and business expansions. By doing this, our tax base will keep pace with the needs of the city and will allow us to continue providing the amenities and services that keep us a vibrant community. In order to help with this balancing, I intend to increase the transparency of the office and upgrade the accessibility for the residents. My clients love how accessible I am, and I will bring that to the office of city attorney.
Sprankle: My approach is different because my experience is different. In 20 years of practice, I've represented businesses and nonprofit organizations regarding taxation, real estate, employment and contract negotiation. I find that a cooperative solutions-based approach has better served my clients than an adversarial litigation approach. Finding solutions and preventing litigation before it starts is the more cost effective approach. The city attorney has operated the Law Department with less than optimal funding due to the city's financial position. I would continue the use of the sustainable operating model as outlined in the current budget. By hiring a full-time paralegal to assist the city attorney, we can reduce the amount spent on contractual counsel. I feel it is inappropriate to opine on specific cases where the details of negotiation and events leading to litigation are not public.
What have you done/are doing to prepare for the role of city attorney?
Mularski: I have been preparing for the job of city attorney all my life. I have lived in Gahanna since I was 3 years old. I graduated from Gahanna Lincoln and Ohio State University, and began my legal career in Gahanna 35 years ago. I have tried cases in every court in Franklin and the contiguous counties. My son purchased my father's home and lives in the house I grew up in. I am a resident, a business owner, father of a resident, and involved in civic organizations. No one wants the city of Gahanna to succeed more than me. I will use all my abilities to make Gahanna the best it can be. I started my practice as a sole practitioner with a part-time secretary. Now, I am a founding partner of a successful law firm, I have budgeted and meshed attorneys with varied expertise, and a large support staff, a skill that will be invaluable as city attorney. I am known for my integrity, reliability and my willingness to stand up for what is right. I have the qualifications and experience necessary to be the Gahanna city attorney.
Sprankle: During my time as an outside contractor for the law department, I've become familiar with the personnel, processes and opportunities to serve our community. After deciding to run, like any business lawyer, I needed to complete some due diligence. I delved deeper into my review of the city charter -- the mandate from the people as to the operation of our city government. I also reviewed the operations of our Mayor's Court and reports from other cities' law departments. I examined the current caseload of the department and the minutes of meetings where the city attorney gives reports. I've reviewed the budget and staff reports to gain a better understanding of the issues facing our city. This is the type of due diligence any business lawyer would take when serving a new client. My goal is excellent, ethical and informed service to the people of Gahanna.