Cookson: Decision unrelated to special election uncertainty.
Updated May 2, 8:55 a.m. to reflect city manager's comments.
Updated May 2, 12:53 p.m. to reflect city attorney comments.
Ocoee’s long-time city attorney, Scott A. Cookson, together with the Orlando firm ShuffieldLowman, where he’s a partner, have resigned, according to an April 25 letter sent to Mayor Rusty Johnson and city commissioners.
Cookson met with City Manager Robert Frank the same day to personally inform him of his resignation and offer to help during the transition to new legal counsel "in any way possible."
Cookson, who has served the city since 2010, did not initially give a reason for the resignation. Staff and officials, who did not want to give their names because they are not authorized to speak to media about personnel matters, said they had occasionally heard talk of retirement, but were surprised when Cookson resigned.
His resignation came one week after the April 18 city commission meeting when plans for the June 13 special election to fill the District 4 city commission seat were up-ended by the commission's sudden decision to re-examine language in the city charter about election timing and possibly delay the election until March 19, 2024. It’s unclear if Cookson’s decision to resign is connected to the uncertainty about the special election or dissatisfaction with loopholes in the city charter that were exploited in the last municipal election. He has been a strong advocate for allowing the special election to take place on June 13.
"I don't believe it had any relation to actions taken during the last meeting," Frank told VoxPopuli in an email Tuesday morning.
Cookson told VoxPopuli that with new members on the city commission after the last election, he wanted to let them choose their own legal counsel.
"My resignation should not be construed as anything more than my desire to free up time for me to focus on my firm and other areas of my practice and to permit this new City Commission the opportunity to select and move forward with a new City Attorney," he said in an email.
The city commission will address the special election at its Tuesday meeting.
Cookson wrote in his letter that he was “appreciative of the opportunity we’ve had to serve the City for the past thirteen (13) years. We’ve greatly enjoyed working with the City Commission and City staff on many exciting projects and matters within the city,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by VoxPopuli through a public records request.
He noted that severing the city’s contract with him and ShuffieldLowman requires 90 days notice, making his final day July 24. However, to ensure that “the transition to replacement legal counsel is as seamless as possible” he will “continue representing the City on all matters and in all meetings until a replacement firm is selected.”
The city manager indicated that the search for new legal counsel has not yet begun. Cookson is expected to be on the dais at Tuesday’s city commission meeting.