Record file — Langley’s city attorney, Mike Kenyon of Kenyon Disend, speaks at a Langley City Council meeting in January.

Sanctuary city topic costs Langley a fifth of its annual legal budget

The sanctuary city discussion was a costly topic for the city of Langley over the past six months, accounting for about 20 percent of the city’s annual legal budget.

Research conducted by Kirkland-based Kenyon Disend, the firm hired to serve as city attorney, on the subject from December 2016 to May totaled $10,950. That equates to just over one-fifth of the city’s allocated budget of $50,000 for legal services. City Clerk/Treasurer Debbie Mahler said the final bill is a significant blow, as the city has spent nearly $19,000 in legal fees this fiscal year.

“It might not put us over budget, but it’s a helluva a lot more than we want to spend,” City Clerk/Treasurer Debbie Mahler said.

Kenyon Disend employs several contracted employees who bill by the hour. Mike Kenyon, co-founder of the firm, charged $305 per hour in December, but his rates increased to $320 per hour in January and the months following. The firm’s other attorneys charge anywhere between $145 and $280.

The firm recorded 39 hours of work over the six-month period on a variety of issues pertaining to the sanctuary city discussion, including legal research on immigration enforcement issues, modifying a draft inclusive city ordinance with amendments, researching potential oath of office violations, attending city council meetings, reviewing city code and completing other assorted tasks as directed by the Langley City Council.

In the month of May alone, Kenyon spent just over 10 hours reviewing the council’s agenda packet, researching immigration enforcement, emailing a city official and advocate of the inclusive city ordinance and making revisions to the draft ordinance. He spent more time in May on the sanctuary city topic than he did in all the previous months combined.

Another busy month for Kenyon Disend was in April. The firm spent over 14 hours discussing the draft ordinance with city officials, finalizing a memorandum opinion evaluating city code conflicts with the sanctuary city ordinance, analyzing a police guild agreement and reviewing personnel policies for potential conflict with the ordinance.

Mayor Tim Callison does not anticipate the city will deplete its legal services budget before the end of the fiscal year.

“I don’t see a problem,” Callison said.

The city made efforts to reduce the cost of the city attorney. Callison’s said the Langley Ethics Commission drafted the city’s non-binding inclusive city resolution and “didn’t cost us anything.” Mahler also drew language from other similar sized cities to craft the draft inclusive city ordinance, which gave Kenyon the responsibility of ensure it was “secure.”

Callison said the city hasn’t been running up its legal services bill in other areas and that the only major expenses from Kenyon Disend have been regarding the sanctuary city topic. Callison believes the city went through all of the appropriate steps and give the sanctuary city proposal a thorough examination.

“It was a legal issue,” Callison said. “People see it as an emotional issue, a compassionate issue. But, when you boil it down, it is strictly a matter of law.”

Callison was also pleased with Kenyon Disend’s performance.