MARINETTE — The Marinette Finance & Insurance Committee pondered what to do about its own city attorney position on Tuesday, which is currently filled by an employee in an hourly contract rather than a full-time employee. 

City Attorney Jonathan Sbar officially retired in February, but wound up staying on at an hourly rate as the city was unable to find a suitable replacement. Ward 1 Alderman Ken Keller, chairperson of the Personnel & License Committee, said he put the topic on Tuesday’s agenda in order to have a discussion about the city’s wants and needs. 

“I guess I would like to see us continue what we did,” said Ward 7 Alderman Rick Polzin in response. “I don’t think it was an open-ended thing, which is what it’s becoming. It’s becoming open-ended, and I think we ought to have some specific plan to fill it.” 

Polzin added that it took a while for the committee to find city attorney candidates during the last search, and he said he was not expecting a “robust” candidate pool in the future either. 

“As far as I know, Jon (Sbar) just agreed to stay on in the interim,” he said. 

Alderperson-at-large Dorothy Kowalski asked what kind of lead time Sbar was willing to give the city, should he decide to depart the position for good. Sbar said that, under the city ordinance, he was originally required to give 90 days notice before his retirement, and gave 150 days notice in order to give the city more time to find a replacement. Because that didn’t work out, he entered into a new, hourly agreement with the city, whereupon either party must give 60 days notice prior to termination of the agreement. 

“I think I’ve proven, when I gave 150 days notice, that if I decide to hang it up before this contract is up, which would be Feb. 7, 2020, I would try to give more notice than 60 days,” he said. 

Kowalski said she was not sure she would be comfortable changing the city attorney position to a part-time position, but added that she was not sure the city could avoid it. 

“I think having someone in here full-time works better for the city,” she said. 

Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Skorik asked Sbar how many hours per week he was averaging on the job. Sbar said that he had cut back some, to around 26 hours per week, rather than his previous 40. 

Polzin asked if the committee planned to wait until February, when Sbar’s contract is up, before beginning to search for a new city attorney. Kowalski said she believed the committee should start searching “earlier rather than later.” 

“This by no means has anything to do with the job you are doing right now, Mr. Sbar, at all,” she added. “We appreciate what you are doing very much. We’re just trying to look ahead and see where we would like to be.” 

The committee took no action on the topic.