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County altering attorney terms to save cash

A change in the way Allen County government hires attorneys is expected to save the county thousands of dollars, a lawyer who is leaving his post says.

After 28 years serving the Allen County commissioners and the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, John Feighner is stepping down as assistant county attorney.

The commissioners approved a new contract with Feighner’s firm, Haller & Colvin PC, on Friday and approved Feighner’s son, Spencer Feighner, to fill the post. The county employs one main attorney and three assistants at this time.

“Historically, county attorneys have been treated as employees with salaries and retirement and insurance benefits,” Feighner said. Under the new arrangement, county attorneys will be paid contracted rates and will not receive benefits, he said.

The commissioners also approved a similar contract that will take effect Jan. 1 with Beers, Mallers, Backs and Salin LLP, the law firm of County Attorney Bill Fishering.

Fishering has also worked for the county for 28 years and will continue in his position under the new terms.

Feighner’s benefits and salary cost the county $53,000 a year, said Chris Cloud, executive assistant to the commissioners.

Under the new contract, assistant county attorneys will receive a flat rate of $2,916 a month or $35,000 a year.

Next year, Fishering will be paid $65,000 annually with no benefits, a savings to the county of about $8,000, Cloud said.

The two other assistant attorneys, Tom Hardin and Carrie Hawk Gutman, will continue to work under the current arrangement, but “at some point, all county attorneys will be contracted,” Fishering said.

“This better suits the ongoing model for attorneys,” he said.

Feighner was presented with a certificate of appreciation from the commissioners, who thanked him for his years of service.

Feighner said he will continue to work in his private practice and on civil rights cases for the sheriff’s department.

“I am very proud of the opportunity I’ve had to represent the commissioners and six sheriffs,” Feighner said. “I’m also proud of our record of success regarding litigation.”

Spencer Feighner is a graduate of Lehigh University and the IU School of Law and began practicing law in 2007. Recently, he has worked on some legal issues for the Allen County Sheriff’s Department.