City solicitor wanted mission ‘bigger than me’

Solicitor Michael Bartlett came to the City of Covington to be "a small part of something bigger."

COVINGTON, Ky. - The ambush-style shooting of Cincinnati Police Officer Sonny Kim changed the trajectory of Michael Bartlett’s career.

Having represented police officers during his early years as an attorney in the private sector, Bartlett had grown to appreciate the mission of law enforcement and local government.
But it was the tragic killing of Kim on June 19, 2015, that “made me realize I needed to do something to help people and make a difference in people’s lives,” Bartlett said.
Shortly thereafter, Bartlett came to the City of Covington as an assistant city solicitor. Tonight, three months after taking over as interim solicitor, Bartlett is on the Covington City Commission’s consent agenda to be named permanently to his post.
“I’m blessed with the opportunity to do a lot of different things as an attorney, but at the end of the day it’s about being a small part of something bigger than me, something that will last, and something that will make a difference in the world around me,” he said. “I love being a small part of some really cool things happening in Covington.”
Bartlett said his top priority as city solicitor is protecting taxpayers and providing legal and practical insight about the checks and balances necessary to make government work effectively.
The solicitor’s office tackles legal issues ranging from reviewing legal terms of contracts to defending the City in lawsuits to advising staff and officials so public agency laws are followed.
A graduate of Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Bartlett this fall will celebrate his 10th year in the practice of law.
He also serves as the City’s Alcoholic Beverage Control administrator, a role that requires his oversight of over 180 licensed businesses. He was named interim solicitor in March when then-Solicitor Frank Warnock, who was also Assistant City Manager, assumed full duties in the latter position.
Manager David Johnston recommended Bartlett’s hiring to the City Commission.
“The Commission, staff and I were impressed with Michael’s passion for good, effective public service,” Johnston said. “Since he has served Covington for three years and is intimately aware of the many issues the City faces, it was an easy decision to promote him.”
To fill the assistant city solicitor’s position left open by Bartlett’s promotion, the City Commission is slated to approve the hiring of the law firm of Gatlin Voelker, PLLC. Under the $75,000 annual contract, one of the firm’s partners - Jack Gatlin or Brandon Voelker - will be at City Hall for 30 to 35 hours a week.
The arrangement brings to City Hall a wealth of legal experience, especially in the local government field, to what is a young legal staff, Johnston said. Covington’s two other assistant solicitors, Cassandra Zoda and Starr Ford, are doing a wonderful job for the City but both have fewer than five years’ experience in municipal law, he said.
The arrangement also saves Covington an estimated $50,000 a year in benefits and other costs.
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