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NCFPD ends legal counsel association with James

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

For the first time since the early 1970s, Bob James is no longer involved with what is now the North County Fire Protection District as legal counsel.

A 5-0 NCFPD board vote June 27 opted not to continue James’ role as special counsel. James had been the district’s general counsel before Burke & Associates was given that role this year. A 5-0 NCFPD board vote Jan. 24 approved a six-month transition which would determine the roles, responsibilities and transition timeline between James and Burke & Associates.

“We were okay with Burke & Associates,” said NCFPD fire chief Keith McReynolds.

“It’s been an amazing voyage,” James said of his NCFPD career. “It’s been quite an experience. I really enjoyed it.”

James, who received his law degree from the University of San Diego in 1969, was hired as the legal counsel for what was then the Fallbrook Fire Protection District by original fire chief Ed Thurber in the early 1970s.

“I’ve served probably longer than anybody,” James said. “I’m glad that I was able to do it. We were able to keep legal matters in house and in town for all those years.”

Loren Stephen-Porter was the fire district’s Executive Administrative Assistant and was also the Board Secretary for board meetings before she retired in Dec. 2022. Stephen-Porter had paralegal experience and used that for NCFPD activity. After Stephen-Porter’s retirement decision, NCFPD staff issued a request for proposals for expanded legal services.

McReynolds explained that fire district matters involve labor laws, real estate laws, election laws and special district laws and that the board felt that the district would be better represented by a firm with expertise in all of those disciplines rather than an individual. The evaluation of the proposals received determined Burke & Associates to be the best firm for the expanded range of legal services. The fire district began contracting with Burke & Associates for expanded general counsel services effective Jan. 1.

“They’re a full firm with multiple disciplines,” McReynolds said.

Burke & Associates took over as general counsel while James was retained as special counsel. During the six-month transition period, James was given a monthly retainer of $1,250 along with $225 per hour for additional legal services.

“I’m sure the firm can handle whatever legal problems come up,” James said.

“It’s not going to be easy to transition when I think about what I’ve been doing all these years, but I’m sure it will calm down,” James said. “I’m sure I can find something to do.”

The NCFPD board normally meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month, so James will now have those evenings free. He noted that he will not totally end his relationship with the fire district. “I’m going to keep in touch with the staff,” he said.

 

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