12 Oct IMLA Celebrates 2021 Awards Winners
On September 29th and October 1st during our 86th Annual Conference in Minneapolis, MN, IMLA was able to announce and recognize our 2021 award winners. These award winners are MLA members who have gone above and beyond the field of municipal law and were nominated by their colleagues to receive these awards.
The Charles S. Rhyne Lifetime Achievement In Municipal Law Award
The Lifetime Achievement in Municipal Law Award is the highest award given by IMLA. The award honors the recipient’s lifetime achievements in the field of municipal law and is a lasting commemorative to Charles S. Rhyne, the founder of IMLA and to his life’s work. The award is meant to recognize a truly uncommon individual. In the field of municipal law, the public service performed and the achievements of the recipient during his or her lifetime are truly outstanding, have benefitted municipal attorneys both locally and nationally, and are so significantly above and beyond the call of duty and expectations for performance in the positions held that no other award would be appropriate. Additionally, the services rendered by the recipient have helped move IMLA toward the goal and objectives established in its short and long-range plans.
As Executive Director of IMLA, Chuck has brought new ideas to the organization to better serve local government attorneys around the country. To that end, he implemented a distance learning program that has grown significantly over the years and offered low cost / high caliber CLE to IMLA members in a widely accessible manner, enhancing the practice of local government law nationally. Chuck’s accomplishments as Executive Director are too numerous to list, but possibly most importantly, Chuck has deftly handled two major “once-in-a-lifetime” crises..
Chuck took over the leadership of IMLA in 2006, at a time when IMLA’s finances were dire. Without Chuck’s leadership, it is not hyperbolic to say that it is unlikely IMLA would have survived the great recession, which would have created a vacuum for local government attorneys seeking collaboration, education, and advocacy on their behalf.
Chuck again rose to the challenge in 2020 when the world was gripped by the COVID-19 crisis Under Chuck’s leadership, IMLA was able to pivot from a planned in-person spring meeting in 2020 to a virtual meeting, increasing the reach of IMLA’s programming to its members in the process.
Throughout his career, Chuck has not only led with ethics and integrity, but has taught hundreds, if not thousands of lawyers how to do the same. He has served on the Maryland State Bar Association’s Committee on Ethics both as the chair and a member. He also regularly speaks at conferences and state bars on ethics.
Chuck’s role as educator does not stop with ethics. He has taught a class on local government law at George Washington Law School for over 20 years and is a frequent presenter on ethics, Supreme Court, and federal court trends to municipal lawyers around the country. He has a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of local government law and has passed that knowledge on to thousands of students and local government attorneys alike around the country in an engaging and accessible manner.
Joseph Van Eaton
Joe has been an advocate representing local government clients his entire careers on a broad range of communications issues in federal and state courts, before federal and state agencies and at the negotiating table. Joe is a partner in Best Best & Krieger LLP’s Municipal Law practice group in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. He is also a registered federal lobbyist and a member of BB&K’s Government Relations team. Prior to joining the firm in 2011, he was a founding partner of Miller & Van Eaton, a nationally recognized telecommunications law firm.
Joe helps communities develop wireline and wireless communications ordinances, negotiates franchises for cable and telecommunications service providers and assists communities in developing their own communications networks. He has successfully defended local government efforts to establish and operate municipally owned systems. He has been a leading advocate for local governments before the FCC, including in key rulemakings affecting local authority to regulate placement of wireless facilities.
Joe has significant experience working with Congress, federal agencies and state legislatures on legislation and regulations affecting municipalities. His practice focuses on representing cities on a broad range of communications issues. In addition to his experience working with legislative bodies and state and federal regulatory agencies, Joe has significant litigation and appellate experience, and has successfully argued cases in most of the U.S. Courts of Appeal and before several state Supreme Courts. Joe is a past recipient of the IMLA President’s Award and is a regular fixture at IMLA events where we always appreciate his insight into matters within his expertise.
IMLA James H. Epps, III Award for Longevity of Service To A Community
IMLA established this award to honor the memory of James H. Epps, III, who represented Johnson City, Tennessee as its attorney for over 40 years. This award recognizes the significant achievement of attorneys having the political and legal skills necessary to represent the same community for at least 30 years and who have been active in IMLA during all or a part of that career.
Steve grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and during high school, he shadowed the Sioux Falls City Attorney during Student Government Day. After receiving his law degree from the University of Nebraska he moved to Brookings, South Dakota and joined a three-person law firm, headed by Frank Denholm, a former Congressman from South Dakota, who was his mentor.
Steve has served as a Deputy City Attorney of Brookings, South Dakota for 14 years, and the last 21 years have served as its City Attorney. He has also enjoyed serving as the City Attorney for Volga, South Dakota, a small town near Brookings, for 38 years.
Michelle Flamer, whose work emphasizes workplace diversity and inclusion, has worked for the City of Philadelphia’s Law Department for more than three decades. Michelle is also a dedicated trustee of the Library Company of Philadelphia and a member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) Philadelphia Heritage Branch.
Cindy graduated from University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law in 1986. After initially working in private practice, she was drawn into public service in 1988 when she went to work as an assistant city attorney for Lenexa, Kansas – then a town of approximately 30,000. She worked her way up from assistant city attorney, to deputy city attorney, and then city attorney in 1996. When she retired in 2020, she had served as the City’s general counsel and manager of the legal department for over 24 years and served the City for 32.
Clifford O. Koon, Jr.
Cliff is a life-long resident of the Midlands of South Carolina, and after a tour of combat duty in Vietnam, he graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.S. in Business Administration, and then earned a J.D., also from the University of South Carolina. He worked for the South Carolina Attorney General for several years after graduating from law school, and his been employed by the Town of Lexington as an attorney since 1987. Cliff is considered one of the pre-eminent legal authorities on Condemnation Law in the State.
Marvin J. Glink Private Practice Local Government Attorney Award
This award is established to honor the memory of Marvin J. Glink by recognizing a private practice practitioner who exhibits those qualities that made Marvin one of the truly remarkable lawyers working in the private sector on behalf of public clients. This award seeks to recognize a private law practitioner who has provided outstanding service to the public and who possesses an exemplary reputation in the legal community, the highest of ethical standards, and who revels in maintaining a life that balances a passion for professional excellence with the joy of family and friends. In addition, the award seeks to recognize a person who exhibits qualities of openness and humility, coupled with a sincere concern for the interests of others, including the professional development of newer practitioners.
James J. Thomson
Jim Thomson is a shareholder and former president of Kennedy & Graven, Chartered in Minneapolis. Jim has 45 years of experience in Local Government Law, Land Use Law, and Municipal Litigation.
After college, Jim served in the United States Marine Corps for 4 years, including one year in Vietnam as an infantry platoon commander.
After his service, Jim entered law and then started his legal career as a deputy city attorney in the San Diego City Attorney’s Office. After moving to Minnesota in 1982, Jim began practicing with the law firm of LeFevere, Lefler, Kennedy, O’Brien and Drawz, which merged with Kennedy & Graven in 1989.
Jim currently serves as city attorney for the cities of Brooklyn Park, Oakdale, North Oaks, and Shakopee. He is also a defense attorney for the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust where he handles defense of land use cases on behalf of cities throughout Minnesota.
Among his many interests, Jim is an avid runner, having completed over thirty marathons.
Daniel J. Curtin, Jr. Young Public Lawyer Award
This award is established to honor the memory of Daniel J. Curtin, Jr. by recognizing a new practitioner who exhibits those qualities that made Dan one of the truly remarkable lawyers working on behalf of public clients. In addition to the traditional qualities of excellence in the practice of law, the award seeks to recognize a public law practitioner who has provided outstanding service to the public and who possesses an exemplary reputation in the legal community, the highest of ethical standards and who revels in maintaining a life that balances a passion for professional excellence and the joy of family and friends. In addition, the award seeks to recognize a person who exhibits qualities of openness and humility coupled with a sincere concern for the interests of others, including the professional development of newer practitioners.
Ms. Jackson is a managing attorney at the City of Albuquerque’s legal department. In her first three years of practice, Ms. Jackson worked on behalf of victims in catastrophic medical malpractice cases and represented victims of sexual abuse with a particular emphasis on protecting children. Since joining the City of Albuquerque’s Legal Department in 2018, Ms. Jackson has represented nearly a dozen departments on various legal issues and for the last two years has managed the Legal Department’s Municipal Affairs Division that houses ten talented general counsel and three exceptional support staff. Ms. Jackson notes her greatest accomplishment in life is being a mother to her two sons.
Todd began practicing law in 2015 and for the first two years, Todd worked in the private sector, providing legal counsel to various towns and districts in southern Utah. In 2018, Todd transitioned to the public sector, working for the City of South Jordan, a large suburb near Salt Lake City, Utah. At the beginning of the pandemic, Todd was hired as the City Attorney for Bluffdale, Utah, a small-but-fast growing city in Utah. As a legal department of one, Todd is tasked with an array of issues each day and he has quickly found out that he never knows what issues may come through his door.
Brown, Mulligan, Rocha Distinguished Public Service Award
This award is established to honor a local government attorney for significant and surpassing achievements in the field of local government law occurring or culminating in the previous year.
In the past, this award was known as the Joseph I. Mulligan Distinguished Service Award. The additions of Benjamin Brown and Susan Rocha, however, both reflect IMLA’s rich and diverse history as well as its continued recognition and celebration of local government attorneys who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to further the practice of municipal law.
Like Mulligan, Benjamin Brown and Susan Rocha each brought honor to the practice of local government law and exemplified the traits the award seeks to recognize.
The award’s original namesake, Joseph Mulligan, was a former IMLA president and committed public servant, serving as the City of Boston’s Corporate Counsel and Licensing Commissioner.
Benjamin Brown served as Baltimore’s City Solicitor, as well as an Associate District Court Judge and a Deputy State Attorney for Baltimore City.
Susan Rocha began her legal career as an assistant city attorney for the City of San Antonio. She also created the Texas Attorney General’s first Office of Municipal Affairs and went on to become a partner with Denton, Navarro, Rocha & Bernal, where she served as the City Attorney for the Cities of Buda, Cibolo, Roma, and San Felipe, in addition to serving as general counsel for a variety of other public entities.
Corrine has served as the city attorney for Minnetonka, Minnesota since 2013. For the preceding 28 years, she represented numerous cities as a member of a private law firm that specialized in representation of local governments. She grew up in Iowa and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School. She has been the IMLA State Chair for Minnesota since 1990 and she was an integral member of the host committee for this conference. She is grateful for and proud of her family, which includes her daughter, Bridget, and her stepsons, Joe and Jeff.
A founding partner of the Loopstra Nixon LLP, Charles Loopstra has practiced law in Toronto since 1969 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1985. Highly adept at navigating complex legal issues, Charles has built an enviable reputation over the years as a public law expert and litigator. He regularly acts as counsel to private and public sector clients, including all levels of government.
Bruce A. Noble Award for a Distinguished Canadian Municipal Lawyer
The Bruce A. Noble award is named in honor of IMLA’s first Canadian President, whose outstanding achievements on behalf of IMLA and many other legal associations are only matched by his passion for the practice of law and knowledge of municipal law practice.
Debra started her legal career as an associate at a private firm in Toronto before joining the legal department of the City of Kitchener as an Assistant City Solicitor in 1991.
Thereafter, Debra joined the legal department of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo in 1999. She was appointed Regional Solicitor in 2005 and held that position until her retirement in July, 2021.
Debra’s career highlights include mentoring new municipal lawyers, and legal teamwork in connection with innovative incentive programmes for affordable rental housing development and environmental brownfield redevelopment, and construction of the first light rail transit system in the Region of Waterloo.
William I. Thornton, Jr. IMLA Faculty Award
IMLA established this award to honor the memory of William I. Thornton, Jr. by recognizing a person dedicated to IMLA and to the practice of local government law and who has participated as a member of the IMLA faculty in helping local government attorneys learn about or reaffirm their knowledge of issues important to their practice of local government law. In addition to the traditional qualities of excellence in the practice of law, the award seeks to recognize a practitioner who has provided outstanding service to the public and who possesses an exemplary reputation in the legal community, the highest of ethical standards and who is devoted to mentoring young lawyers and educating lawyers in local government law.
Roberta “Robin” Cross
Robin currently works as the Township Attorney for The Woodlands Township, Texas. She has over eighteen years’ experience working for local governments and was recognized as an IMLA Fellow in 2013. She has also worked as in-house counsel for a police labor union and for the EEOC, as a trial attorney. She has been Board-certified in Labor and Employment Law since 1992 by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She heads up IMLA’s Personnel Section and she enjoys employment law, among other things, because “you can’t make this stuff up.”
Outstanding State League Counsel Award
IMLA established this next award, the Outstanding State League Counsel Award, to honor those attorneys who serve as counsel to their state league of cities or association of counties, towns or other local government entities and who are recognized for their valued service to the members of their organizations and for their skills as attorneys. Like other IMLA awards, this award expects the recipient to exhibit the traditional qualities of excellence in the practice of law, but also seeks to recognize a practitioner who has provided outstanding service to local governments and who possesses an exemplary reputation in the legal community, the highest of ethical standards and who is devoted to improving local governments.
Pat Beety is General Counsel for the League of Minnesota Cities where she directs legal matters involving the League and its related entities, and oversees a legal team of over 30 attorneys, law clerks and paralegals. For almost 30 years, she has represented Minnesota cities and city officials in state and federal court, administrative agencies, and before the state legislature. Pat’s has a long and diverse history of pro bono service and involvement in the legal community including with leadership roles in a number of these organizations.
Pat is passionate about educating and mentoring others and loves to teach first year law students “Law in Practice” at her alma mater, the University of Minnesota Law School, where she is an adjunct professor. Pat also did a fantastic job on IMLA’s host committee working with a great team to put together this wonderful conference for us to enjoy.
Brad D. Bailey Assistant City/County Attorney Award
The Brad D. Bailey Award is established to honor the memory of Brad D. Bailey by recognizing a public law practitioner who has provided outstanding service to the public and who possesses an exemplary reputation in the legal community, the highest of ethical standards and who revels in maintaining a life that balances a passion for professional excellence and the joy of family and friends.
Kori Termine Wisneski
As Deputy General Counsel for the City of Middletown, Kori handles, oversees, and collaborates on all City legal affairs with a focus on labor and employment matters, including litigation, arbitration, dispute resolution, and contract negotiation. Before joining City service, Kori worked for Robinson & Cole LLP in Hartford, Connecticut.
Kori has past experience serving as an adjunct for the University of Connecticut School of Law for the class Lawyering Process where she oversaw students’ out-of-class role-playing exercises, which exposed students to the interpersonal, ethical, and moral dimensions of lawyer-client, lawyer-witness, and lawyer-lawyer relationships.
Kori is a Middletown native and continues to live there with her husband and two children.
Lynda was born in Philadelphia and after law school, she began a career of public service which spanned over 34 years. Lynda began her career in the City of Philadelphia’s Law Department serving as legal counsel to the agencies which provided social services to the City’s most vulnerable populations and litigating cases of child abuse and neglect as well as mental health cases.
Based on her legal acumen, commitment and dedication to serving the citizens of Philadelphia, Lynda quickly rose through the ranks from Assistant City Solicitor to ultimately Chief Deputy City Solicitor. In 2003, she was tapped to lead a newly created Health and Adult Services Unit. Lynda’s vast experience and legal knowledge has given her an ability to be flexible when confronting never seen before challenges in the health field or as technology outpaces the law.
Lynda’s commitment to the community extends beyond her work in the Law Department and she is known for her community outreach efforts.
Burk E. (Buck) Delventhal Legal Advocacy Award
This award honors the life and legacy of Burk E. Delventhal, known to all as Buck. Buck served as a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco for almost 50 years from 1970 to 2019. He carried a legal library in his head and the history of San Francisco and its community in his heart. Buck was not just the oracle of the City Charter, a highly accomplished courtroom attorney, and the go-to person for tough legal questions. Buck was a beacon. He was a beacon of inspiration, trust, and boundless optimism. He was a legal lion and an even better person. His distinguished legal career is summarized in the award description on our website.
The award recognizes the work of an attorney of an IMLA member in legal advocacy and education who has demonstrated superior professional skills in advancing the interests of the nominee’s clients and of local government generally, and who, through litigation, legislative work, and educational efforts, has advanced the health, safety, and welfare of the community or communities the attorney has served.
An Attorney since 1991, he has worked for the City of Las Vegas since 1996. After working his way up through various positions with the City, in 2020, he was unanimously ratified by the Las Vegas City Council to become the City’s 23rd City Attorney and its first ever African American City Attorney. During his time with the City of Las Vegas, Bryan has practiced in the areas of General Civil Litigation, Special Improvement Districts, Condemnations, Land Use, Zoning and Planning, Ethics, Marijuana Regulation, Public Records and the Open Meeting Law.
Bryan has been instrumental in shaping the City of Las Vegas. He always offers helpful solutions to the myriad issues facing the City, from homelessness to land use/zoning to legalized marijuana. He participates actively with the City Council and the City Manager’s Office to address problems and he is both a sounding board and mentor to his staff. Bryan works tirelessly to advance the legal profession, mentoring young attorneys.
Bryan has provided extensive service to state and county bars, almost too numerous to mention. He has won a number of awards and accolades for his community service work. He currently sits on the Board of the Justice Michael L. Douglas Pre-Law Fellowship Program which seeks to introduce students from underrepresented communities to the rigors of law school and the benefits of having a legal education.
In June 2021, Scott was honored by the State Bar of Nevada with the naming and awarding of the Inaugural “Bryan K. Scott Trailblazer Award” during its Annual Meeting. In May 2019, he was awarded the James M. Bartley Distinguished Public Lawyer Award by the Public Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Nevada. In September 2018, he was recognized by the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Bar Association as “The Attorney of the Year.” And Bryan was honored by the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Bar Association in 2019 by the establishment of the “Bryan K. Scott Book Scholarship”.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award
IMLA is committed to supporting members who embrace diversity as part of their core values and we are excited to provide a way to recognize the people that are leading these efforts. Diversity covers the variety of cultures, experiences, expertise, and viewpoints that offer value in every community and are incorporated into the fabric of every community. Diversity encompasses age, education level, ethnicity and race, gender expression and identity, nationality, national origin, physical and mental ability, religious perspectives, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, veteran status and other human differences. By embracing diversity, municipalities and their law departments attract and retain skilled and talented employees dedicated to excellence in providing service to the community and to their clients. Nominations were accepted for an individual’s or a group’s efforts, initiatives or programs that promote diversity and inclusion values within their local government, office or community.
Claudia Aguayo is the Assistant City Attorney for the City of North Las Vegas, where she has worked since 2004. Claudia provides preventative training in the areas of Discrimination/Harassment and Implicit Bias, at the City and in the community. Claudia is the current President of the Nevada Latino Bar Association (“the LBA”), an organization whose mission is to support Latino attorneys, and help diversify the legal profession.
Denver City Attorney’s Office DEI Executive Council
Formed in 2018, the Denver City Attorney’s Office DEI Executive Council recognized that everyone has a critical role to play as allies, leaders, and champions in creating an organization with diverse employees that is equitable and inclusive.
The DEI Executive Council serves as the architects of facilitating learning and driving sustainable change across the Denver City Attorney’s Office. They quickly conducted multiple workshops and embraced the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmark as a framework to help inform the agency’s DEI values and vision statement, upheld by defined strategic pillars to help guide the way forward, carried out by specific initiatives.
Today, the Denver City Attorney’s Office owns a robust and carefully designed curriculum impacting all parts of the employee lifecycle while equipping leaders with the tools and support to have more productive and genuine DEI conversations with their teams. Being committed to DEI and creating an enduring core, not based on trends, but a deep-rooted model embedded into the agency’s culture, the DEI Executive Council is institutionalizing these initiatives, making them sustainable across mayoral administrations.
Andy has practiced law since 1990 and served six years as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. For 26 years, he served as a lawyer and senior legal executive with General Motors in Detroit.
In 2016, Andy became the City Attorney for his native San Antonio, the position he still holds. He is a member of the City’s Executive Leadership Team and oversees a diverse team of 82 lawyers and staff that work closely with 38 City Departments and elected officials to provide legal advice and counsel on matters with direct impact on the community, including underserved low-income communities and communities of color.
Andy is committed to equity. For example, Andy offered the City Attorney’s Office to serve as a leader among all City Departments to undergo a Departmental Equity Assessment. This assessment provides the foundation to create a two-year department action plan geared toward improving outcomes for the underserved in his community. Andy’s team also proceeded through the 40-hour training for trainers to be equipped to promote diversity workplace education, communication, and inclusion.
Deborah Thomas is the Deputy City Attorney for the City of Austin, Texas. She is currently serving as Acting City Attorney while the City Attorney is on special assignment. Deborah’s area of expertise is land use law. She has been with the City of Austin Law Department for 27 years.
Deborah is currently leading the Law Department’s effort to secure Mansfield Rule certification. The Mansfield Rule process seeks to move the diversity and inclusion needle by encouraging law departments to consider historically underrepresented lawyers in the hiring process and for significant leadership roles and to consider hiring outside counsel law firms with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Chanae is a municipal and land use attorney with a particular interest in issues dealing with First Amendment, medical marijuana and hemp laws. Chanae serves as the Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Program Committee at Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, a 70-member South Florida firm..
Chanae was a magna cum laude graduate of St. Thomas University School of Law and while there, she was selected as the first black Editor-in-Chief of the St. Thomas Law Review. Her article, “Black and Poor: The Grave Consequences of Utah v. Strieff,” was published in the Review’s “Voice of the Voiceless” Anniversary Issue.
Raina is a Deputy City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia Law Department. Prior to returning to her hometown of Philadelphia, Raina was an international lawyer working in Project Finance in the Beijing and Dubai offices of an international law firm. She currently practices Intellectual Property and Technology Law in the Commercial Law Unit of the City of Philadelphia Law Department.
When she is not practicing law, Raina’s passion is history. Her main area of focus is the history of Black lawyers in Philadelphia. Raina has given CLE seminars and lectures about the History of Black Lawyers to The City of Philadelphia Law Department, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and several other entities. She is an active member of the Barrister’s Association of Philadelphia, the African American lawyer affinity organization, where she serves on the Scholarship Selection Committee and volunteers as a Bar Buddy, tutoring students for the bar examination.
Raina is the owner of the premier Black history walking tour company in Philadelphia, The Black Journey, where she gives weekly tours about Philadelphia’s rich Black history to visitors from across the globe.
In 2001, the Board of Directors established two new awards. These recognize the achievements and contributions of first, an IMLA State Chair or Provincial chair, and second, an Associate Member over the course of the past year. The recipients are selected by the President with the advice and counsel of the IMLA Board and Executive Director.
Outstanding State/Provincial Chair
Ryan P. Simonton
Ryan is a member of Kay Casto & Chaney PLLC and practices in the firm’s Morgantown office. Ryan serves as City Attorney for The City of Morgantown and represents clients in matters involving municipal law, regulatory law, government relations, commercial law, and employment law. He previously served as in-house counsel to the City of Morgantown from 2014 through 2019. Ryan is the State Chair for West Virginia for IMLA and a member of the West Virginia Municipal Attorneys Association and Defense Trial Counsel of West Virginia.
Outstanding Associate Member
John is one of the six founding attorneys of Greene Espel, which has grown into a successful litigation boutique, well respected in the Twin Cities legal community—and beyond. He has practiced law in Minnesota since 1988 and from his first day, he has represented cities and city officials in state and federal litigation. After making a name for himself as an exceptional brief writer, he became an appellate advocate and trial attorney.
In the last four years, he has written or co-authored amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as in several circuit courts and state Supreme Courts on behalf of IMLA and other organizations of public-sector officials and entities. He is best known as an advocate, author, and speaker on constitutional law, land-use litigation, appellate practice, telecommunications law, and defamation.