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Watertown begins search for new city attorney

Nov. 23—WATERTOWN — The city will soon begin its search for a new attorney after learning Monday night that Robert J. Slye will be leaving the position after 30 years.

Mr. Slye told the City Council during an executive session that he will step down at the end of the year. He'll be principal law clerk for state Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky, whose clerk William F. Ramseier was elected state Supreme Court judge.

During the executive session, council members agreed that a request for proposals should be assembled to seek interested attorneys to replace Mr. Slye.

At least two council members — Lisa A. Ruggiero and Cliff G. Olney III — have mentioned a possible replacement with local attorney James A. Burrows, who served as assistant city attorney for years when he was a member of Mr. Slye's law firm.

"No names were suggested for his replacement on Monday night. I'd recommend Jim Burrows," Councilman Olney said. "But we'll look at any attorneys who are interested in the position."

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said he hasn't thought about whom might replace the longtime city attorney, although he was pleased with Mr. Burrow's work when he represented the city on legal matters.

Councilwoman Ruggiero said she's talked to Hounsfield officials about his work for the town and they've been pleased.

The city might need to find an interim city attorney. Councilwoman Ruggiero would support Mr. Burrows, who is a partner in Kendall, Walton & Burrows law firm in Watertown, in that capacity.

With the holidays already here, Mayor Smith expects council won't make an appointment until after Jan. 1.

Mr. Slye, city attorney since March 1993, heard that Judge McClusky was looking for a new law clerk, so he inquired about the job. Mr. Slye said on Monday that he'll turn 69 in March and working for one client, the state court system, is a way "to ease into retirement." He also said serving as city attorney was "the highlight" of his career.

There are about six city cases remaining in litigation, so Mr. Slye suggested bringing in Jonathan Fellows, an attorney with the Syracuse law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King, to handle them. In recent years, Mr. Fellows has worked on other cases for the city.