Mayor Kristen Brown has appointed Kelly Benjamin as the in-house City Attorney for the City of Columbus effective April 9. Columbus has contracted with outside attorneys for legal services for many years but Mayor Brown determined that the citizens of Columbus would be better served by employing the City Attorney in-house.
Mayor Brown explained the move. “This is a best practice I’m bringing from the corporate world. Businesses dealing with the myriad of complex laws that the city deals with would typically have an in-house general counsel, who relies on outside counsel for litigation and specialty law in areas such as bond issuances.
“This move is about better and faster service, not necessarily cheaper. As an in-house attorney, Kelly will gain an intimate knowledge of the inner-workings of our operations and the unique employment and regulatory challenges municipal government faces. Kelly’s in-house presence and 100% commitment to serving the citizens of Columbus will allow her to more promptly service our needs and be more proactive in identifying liabilities and finding solutions. This will make the city more successful and in the long-term, more cost effective in our operations.”
The City Attorney’s office provides legal advice to the Mayor, City department heads, City Council, Planning Commission members and members of other boards and committees, to ensure their actions fall within the framework of the law. The City Attorney’s office also drafts ordinances, contracts, resolutions and agreements and represents the City in litigation matters.
“Kelly’s number one priority is to ensure we maintain our integrity and do not unintentionally color outside the lines by providing timely, accurate and high quality legal representation. Drafting a city Ethics Ordinance will be at the top of the list for the new City Attorney. An Ethics Ordinance will hold city officials and employees to a higher standard of conduct and transparency as we make decisions which affect the city and residents. Employees, elected officials and residents all benefit when everyone has clear guidance as to what is legal and acceptable behavior. The public we serve needs to know we are dealing with city resources and funds in an impartial manner, explained Mayor Brown.
Kelly has been an attorney for 20 years and is currently a Deputy Prosecutor for the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s Office. She oversees domestic violence and other felony and misdemeanor cases and is a member, and has been the chairperson of the Bartholomew Domestic Violence Action Team.
Kelly is a certified instructor in domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse crime prosecution, and has trained police and sheriff departments, judges, prosecutors, probation agents and child advocates nationally over the past decade. She is also currently certified as an instructor by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Law Enforcement Services Training and Standards Bureau in the areas of Constitutional Law, Juvenile Law, Crimes (Persons & Property), Report Writing, Testifying in Court, Interview and Interrogation, Physical Evidence Collection, and Victims and Sensitive Crimes.
Kelly has received numerous awards in her work in the domestic violence arena, the most recent being the 2011 Outstanding Prosecutor Award from the Indiana Coalition against Domestic Violence. She is an active volunteer in the Columbus community organizing many events to raise awareness of domestic violence related issues, and serves on the Lincoln Center Figure Skating Club and has served on the Columbus Youth Hockey Board. She and her husband Scott served as co-chairs for the 2011 “UnCommon Cau$e”, a fundraiser event for the Columbus Indiana Arts Council.
Kelly expressed eagerness to begin work at the city. “I consider this appointment an honor and look forward to serving the Mayor and the City of Columbus as we continue to move forward. The mayor’s focus on integrity, efficiency and transparency aligns with how I want to conduct business for the city. Being in-house will allow me to respond more effectively to the needs of the Mayor, City Council, boards and committees and city staff and provide them with timely service. ”
Prior to working in Bartholomew County, Kelly was a Deputy Prosecutor for Johnson County in Franklin, Indiana, an Assistant District Attorney in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and an Associate Attorney for Terwilliger, Wakeen, Piehler & Conway, S.C. in Wisconsin.
Kelly is admitted to practice law as a member of the bar of Indiana. She received her J.D. law degree in 1991 from Drake University Law School in Iowa and holds a B.A. in Business Finance, Political Science and Economics from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. She lives in Columbus with her husband Scott and three children.