Former Little Rock City Director Brad Cazort has applied for a new part-time job in the city attorney's office, months after his solo-run law firm unsuccessfully sought a contract for similar work, public records show.
Cazort wants work as a real estate attorney focused on foreclosures and "quiet title" action, or going to court to make sure a title is free of hindrances that could allow others to stake ownership claims.
Since November, Little Rock twice sought submissions from outside firms to handle similar responsibilities on a contract basis -- Cazort's firm ranked second out of three in the latest opportunity, according to records obtained under state Freedom of Information laws -- but City Hall did not award contracts either time.
City Manager Bruce Moore, City Attorney Tom Carpenter and Mayor Mark Stodola said the position is a way for the city to more frequently obtain properties that have city liens and develop them for special projects.
Asked about the shift in approaches to parcel out the work, from a contract to a part-time job, they referred questions to one another.
"That's a question for the mayor," Carpenter said. "There is an interest on the mayor's part for a very aggressive program, and that's where the whole concept comes from."
Stodola, who said the city's lack of aggressiveness in foreclosing on properties has been a "long-standing" issue, said the decision of how to implement the idea is up to Carpenter.
"I think [there is] probably some discussion on whether a firm is the best way to route that or whether some lawyer that's dedicated to it is best to handle it," Stodola said. "It's up to the city attorney to figure out who can do this best. He's the one who makes those decisions."
Moore said he was unaware the job had already been advertised and that Carpenter would decide how to handle the program.
Carpenter said the position's pay is negotiable and that he'll determine a range after meeting again with Stodola and Moore about what they want from the hire. Part-time employees may work up to 30 hours per week.
Cazort's 20-year run as city director ended in January when he declined to seek re-election to the $18,500-per-year job. He is one of three lawyers who applied for the real estate attorney job and one of two who have the desired experience, according to what candidates reported on their applications.
No laws or policies limit the city's elected officials from getting work at City Hall after leaving office, whether by contract or employment. The city's 10-member Board of Directors adopts local laws, policies and the annual budget. It also hires and supervises two employees: Moore and Carpenter.
Cazort said someone with the city informed him of both the bid opportunity and the job posting but that he couldn't remember who told him. He said the mayor has long discussed a need for a real estate expert to handle special projects.
"They've got a lot of good attorneys, but none of them are real estate specialists," Cazort said of the city attorney's office, which has 11 full-time attorneys.
Little Rock has brought quiet-title action at least nine times since January 2013, according to a review of online Pulaski County court records. The full-time staff in the city attorney's office handled most of those cases, but the city turned over the work to a local law firm in two of those cases.
That firm, Wilson & Associates, was the lone applicant for the city contract in November and one of three to respond in March, when its proposal scored the highest on anonymous evaluations, city documents show.
Wilson & Associates managing attorney Aaron Squyres, who signed both submissions, did not respond to email or phone messages.
Stodola said the city's need extends beyond quiet-title action and includes developing a priority system for choosing which properties to target for foreclosure.
"This issue has been long-standing," Stodola said. "We've got thousands of dollars' worth of liens, and there's not a system in place consistently to push these lien foreclosures."
The Little Rock job posting asked all applicants if they have at least four years of experience practicing law in "real estate management, quieting titles, foreclosures, or a related area," similar to what the city desired when it twice advertised a city contract for a real estate lawyer work over the past eight months.
In November, Little Rock advertised a "request for proposals" from people who could provide quiet-title services. That request said the city would negotiate a two-year contract with the chosen vendor.
Wilson & Associates was the sole respondent. Because the city requested proposals, the firm was required to propose a price. It suggested $670 per title. The city did not award a contract.
In a broader advertisement in March, the city published a "request for qualifications" from people who could handle "foreclosure and quiet title actions."
The request opened March 1 and closed March 13. The city said in the advertisement that it intended to negotiate a one-year contract -- with options for two additional years -- to begin March 15.
Wilson & Associates and Cazort Law Firm were two of three firms to respond. Five city reviewers independently graded their qualifications on a scale of 1 to 100, and an average of the five scores determined where the firms' responses ranked.
Wilson & Associates came in at No. 1 with an average of 94.3, and Cazort Law Firm was No. 2 at 88.4, according to the score sheet. The city did not award a contract.
"I didn't hear anything more about it," Cazort said. "I think someone told me at one point they decided to go in a different direction."
Little Rock advertised the part-time job for about three weeks in June before the posting closed early this month.
Cazort has not heard back about his job application, he said.
Denese Fletcher, a licensed attorney for nearly 24 years, also applied for the job and has the desired experience. A Little Rock solo practitioner, she previously worked as a legislative attorney for the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research, city attorney in Joiner and deputy prosecutor in Pulaski County, according to her job application.
Fletcher declined to comment.
Cazort has nearly 30 years of experience as an attorney, including eight as city attorney in Clinton, and works part time at his law firm handling cases involving real estate law, contracts and municipal law, according to his job application.
Cazort's full-time job is administrator of the Arkansas Crime Information Center's repository division, which is responsible for maintaining criminal history records.
On his Little Rock job application, Cazort listed City Director Gene Fortson, former Police Chief Stuart Thomas and Stodola as references.
A Section on 07/20/2017
Print Headline: LR board vet Cazort seeks city realty slot