As the city conducts its daily business, it relies on many experts to make sure things operate correctly. One of those is the city attorney.

Staff has contact with the city attorney every day, sometimes several times a day, Assistant Rockwall City Manager Rick Crowley said.

“We have a lot of different types of business activities in the city,” Crowley said. “The city is a creature of the state, so there are state laws that bear on our activities, as well as other legal issues we seek his advice on.”

In most cities, the city attorney is appointed by the council. Some attorneys are full-time city employees. Others, such as Rockwall’s Pete Eckert, are contract employees. Eckert has eight to 10 regular clients, including the city of Heath.

There are a myriad of issues to deal with, including public utilities, construction contracts, drafting ordinances and resolutions, interpreting ordinances, economic development, elections and monitoring state and federal laws.

“You have to be pretty well versed on all the issues that come up,” Eckert said. “You get a chance to work on a lot of issues in municipal law. It runs the gamut.”

Eckert also reviews and writes contracts for the city. He is also part of any negotiations or litigation the city may be involved in, whether against the city or initiated by it. However, a city usually hires outside attorneys for specialized issues and lawsuits such as the Rockwall annexation suit pending before the Supreme Court.

“For a municipal lawyer, if you get off on one of these bigger cases, you spend all your time on it, and you can’t really do anything else,” Eckert said.

The city attorney also serves as legal advisor to the council and renders opinions about actions the council may seek to under take. He is not there to simply rubber-stamp the council’s decisions.

“I keep them advised on the law. It’d be silly to do otherwise,” Eckert said. “If they wanted to hold a meeting without regard to open meetings laws and ‘You tell us it’s OK,’ that’s a lot of bologna.”

It’s an interesting area of law, Eckert said. It never presents the same day twice.

“You have all that to deal with,” he said. “It’s rendering the best advice you can.”