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Rockdale BOC considers new attorney

CONYERS - The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners will consider the appointment of Conyers attorney Qader A. Baig to replace longtime county attorney John Nix at its next regular meeting Tuesday.

Items relating to the appointment appeared on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting. The agenda was released late Thursday.

One agenda item seeks a vote on Baig's appointment as the county attorney, and another is a ratification of an agreement with his firm that sets his retainer fee at $9,000 per month and a rate of $175 per hour for each hour worked over an agreed 52 hours per month. The proposed agreement also has a billable rate of $75 per hour for paralegal services.

When reached at his office in Olde Town Conyers, Baig declined to comment on his proposed appointment.

"There's a political process that's involved in this and has yet to take place," he said. "I would not want any comments from me to affect that process, no matter what the outcome will be."

Speaking through a county spokeswoman Friday, Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden said the service of Nix and his law firm, Maddox, Nix, Bowman and Zoeckler, had done for the county but said he felt it was time for a change in terms of legal services provided to the Board of Commissioners.

"The chairman thought this was an opportunity to bring in someone who will have a different perspective from the community and will offer a fresh look at the legal issues facing the county," Rockdale County spokeswoman Julie Mills said.

Mills added that the move also gave the county a chance to have a written contract for the county attorney, something that does not exist with the current county attorney. "We had not had a document that spelled out expectations of the county," she said.

Baig graduated from Emory University's School of Law in 1993 and has operated his law firm in Conyers since 2004. He served as an assistant district attorney in the Rockdale County District Attorney's office from 1995 to 2000. From 2000 to 2004, Baig worked in the DeKalb County Solicitor General's office and rose to the title of Solicitor General, Pro Tempore.

Nix has served as county attorney since March 1985. Before his appointment, he served as a public defender in Rockdale County for two years. The agreement between Nix and the county was a flat $125 fee per hour without a retainer. The county had an annual cost advance fee of $39,200 that was used on an as needed basis for consultants and expert advice in court proceedings involving the county, Mills said.

Magistrate Court legal fees for the county had changed over the years from $12,650 per month in 2004 and $950 per month in 2005. Since the creation of the county Department of Legal Affairs and Community Compliance in 2006 Magistrate Court fees have been held at $11,400 per month, Mills said.

In 2008, the county's general fund had $373,763 budget for legal fees.

Nix served as county attorney, but the county also had the services of Nix's partners in his law firm based on their area of expertise. Baig works alone in his law firm.

Mills said Baig's job will allow him to contract out legal help as needed. She explained that Oden believed this model will open up work to other law firms based on their area of expertise and that Maddox, Nix, Bowman and Zoeckler would be in the mix.

"Mr. Baig will look at all the legal needs of the county and areas that would require specific knowledge," Mills said. "He knows the legal community here and will be able to hire legal counsel as needed from other law firms, including Mr. Nix's firm."

The county has hired other attorneys in the past when there were conflicts of interest between third parties and Nix. During the search for a management firm for the county's sewerage operations in 2005, Atlanta attorney John Myers advised the Board of Commissioners because one of the companies bidding for the contract was represented by Nix.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.