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After recessing into closed session Friday afternoon, six members of the Los Alamos County Council reconvened to approve the hiring of a new county attorney to replace Mary McInerny who retires next month.
In a 5-1 vote, council hired Randy Autio who currently serves as assistant city attorney in Albuquerque.
Councilor Vincent Chiravalle served on the selection committee and voted against the hire Friday saying that while Autio is well qualified for the position, he felt that the salary of $139, 320 being offered was too high.
“Randy Autio’s experience serving 17 years in the Albuquerque attorney’s office and also in managing the Albuquerque City Clerk’s office through an election cycle are impressive but I have a real issue with the salary,” Chivaralle said. “The salary is $10,000 above midrange – in other words there’s no room for growth…I don’t think the county has done enough to control costs.”
Autio is making $108,000 in his current position. The salary range for Los Alamos County attorney is $98,462 to $157,540.
Councilor Nona Bowman also served on the selection committee and she spoke of the complex set of legal issues facing Los Alamos because the attorney is required to handle not only local issues but state and federal as well.
“Randy is the best choice,” she said. “It’s true we are going to hire him for more than I had anticipated but we have to take into account Randy’s experience.”
Bowman also remarked that McInerny negotiated a $4,000 car expense, which Autio does not have and she found in reviewing salaries in other districts that most ran between $135,000 and $138,000.
“Council relies on the attorney for a broad range of issues and it’s essential to have the right person for that job and that person is not a rookie,” said Councilor Ralph Phelps who also served on the selection committee.
Council Chair Mike Wismer reviewed Autio’s credentials including the fact that he received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of New Mexico, served as chief records custodian for the City of Albuquerque and administered the first publicly financed council and mayoral elections in Albuquerque.
Autio has been deputy city attorney and assistant city attorney since 1990. He has land use expertise, Wismer said, and worked for seven years as a trial and appellate lawyer handling all types of litigation from administrative hearings up through a U.S. Supreme Court petition.
“Randy and his wife Susan are going to move here and he will be a partner with the council and the county,” Wismer said, adding that there is room for growth in the salary they are offering.
Autio will join the county July 19 to have an overlap with McInerny who leaves July 31.