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City might select attorney; Hiring process narrows down to three finalists

October 3, 2018

The Brownsville City Commission will consider hiring a new city attorney during tonight’s meeting, filling a position that has been vacant for over a year.

The commission voted to terminate former City Attorney Mark Sossi in August 2017, and the city currently outsources its legal work because it has no staff.

At-Large “A” City Commissioner Cesar de Leon in October 2017 was appointed by Mayor Tony Martinez as chairman of a 10-person city attorney search committee. After one of four finalists withdrew from consideration, the commission has three candidates to consider: Pensacola City Attorney Lysia H. Bowling, Brownsville attorney and Municipal Judge Rene De Coss and Brownsville attorney Gerry Linan.

The city attorney hiring was on the commission’s Sept. 18 agenda, but members decided to postpone the vote because not all commissioners had interviewed each finalist. One candidate withdrew two days later. Tonight’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. at 1001 E. Elizabeth Street. An executive session begins at 4:10 p.m. where commissioners are expected to discuss the appointment.

Bowling and Linan did not respond to phone messages requesting interviews.

LYSIA H. BOWLING

Bowling has been city attorney in Pensacola, Fla., since March 2015, according to her application. She was recruited to assist as the city transitioned from a manager-council form of government to a “strong mayor” government. She has 24 years of experience as a city attorney and assistant city attorney, she stated.

Bowling wrote that she oversees Pensacola’s in-house legal department with a budget of $600,000. Her responsibilities include all legal matters related to:

>> municipal government

>> corporate affairs

>> municipal enterprises

>> Pensacola International Airport

>> Pensacola Port of Entry

She also is the city’s public records officials and is responsible for ensuring compliance with Florida open records and meetings laws.

“ Now, as the change in executive leadership nears, it is an ideal time … for me to resume my Texas municipal government practices as a City Attorney in a Texas municipality,” she wrote. “It will be my central mission to ensure that the Legal Department provides the highest quality legal advice to the City and reflects my commitment to fulfill my duties …”

Before taking her job in Pensacola, Bowling was San Angelo city attorney from November 2009 to March 2015. She was the city’s police legal advisor and assistant city attorney from October 2007 to September 2009, according to her application.

Bowling has also been a police legal advisor and assistant city attorney for Miami, assistant state attorney in the 11th Judicial Circuit for Miami-Dade County and city prosecutor for Temple, Texas. She was Harlingen city attorney from 1993-1995 and a Texas assistant attorney general prior to that.

She graduated from Yale University with degrees in political science and Latin American studies before obtaining her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, according to her résumé. She speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

RENE DE COSS

“ I don’t shy away from challenges, and that’s why I applied,” De Coss told the Brownsville Herald. “One of those (city attorney functions) is prosecuting cases in municipal court, and I’ve been doing that for a long time. (It’s) the type of work attorneys do all the time: ordinances, contracts, making sure departments’ legal needs are met.”

He started his law firm in 1997 and has practiced in the areas of criminal law, juvenile justice, family law, probate law and civil litigation. Before that, De Coss was an assistant district attorney under Luis V. Saenz for about seven months in 1996. During that time, he prosecuted misdemeanors, felonies and juvenile cases, according to his résumé.

De Coss was appointed in October 2015 to the 445th District Court by Gov. Greg Abbott and served through the end of 2016. He has been a municipal court judge since his appointment in 1998 and presides over criminal, civil, magistrate and city ordinance matters, his résumé states.

“ I have plenty of experience in what happens in the city and the needs of the departments,” De Coss said. “My understanding is some of the commissioners may be looking for a more proactive city attorney (for litigation), so I think my experience may be worth while.”

De Coss said that because Brownsville continues to grow, he would take a look at how the City Attorney’s Office operates for opportunities to innovate.

“ We can make the City Attorney’s Office anything that we can. It’s going to take a little time to reach out to…all departments in the city to see how we can better meet their needs,” he said. “Technology changes, and there might be better ways of meeting their needs and demands.”

De Coss graduated from Baylor University with a degree in law and went on to graduate from the Baylor School of Law. He is fluent in Spanish. De Coss said on his application he is related to Planning & Development Services Director Constanza Miner.

GERRY LINAN

Linan opened his law firm in 1995, according to his résumé. He is a certified mediator and practices contract and civil litigation involving architects, designers, general contractors, subcontractors and municipals representatives.

He also practices in the area of Texas discrimination litigation, business, personal injury, criminal law and family law.

Linan completed his undergraduate degree in economics at the University of Texas at Austin and graduated from the Texas Tech University School of Law.

nadia@brownsvilleherald.com

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