Utica city attorney bids bittersweet farewell

McGrail headed to 41-B District Court

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 26, 2017

 Jim McGrail

Jim McGrail

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UTICA — On April 11, the Utica City Council unanimously approved the resignation of its city attorney, Jim McGrail. McGrail said he could not pass up the opportunity to serve as court administrator and magistrate for the 41-B District Court in Clinton Township.

McGrail’s sister, Linda Belau, will serve as the interim city attorney until the city finds a replacement.

The McGrail name has been long established in the city of Utica. Jim said his father, William McGrail, served as city attorney for 45 years, and his mother, Cathy McGrail, served as city clerk for 29 years.

“I’ve always considered being the city attorney for Utica a dream,” Jim McGrail said. “In 2003, I became an assistant attorney for the city of Utica, and in 2013, I became the actual city attorney for the city, and that dream came true.”

He said that while he could not turn down the position with the 41-B District Court, he will always harbor a deep love for the city of Utica and want the best for it.

“Utica is unlike any other community for which I’ve performed legal services,” he said. “Everyone within this room and every employee working for the city and all of its residents are more like family.”

McGrail said he is excited for the future of the city with Mayor Thom Dionne at the helm, and thanked an extensive list of individuals who made his experience in Utica memorable.

“I have seen an excitement grow within the city and within the residents,” he said. “I do not consider this a goodbye, because I plan to always be involved in the city that I love and admire.”

A handful of city officials and volunteers publicly expressed well-wishes for McGrail.

“What if we don’t accept his resignation?” Mayor Pro Tem Ken Sikora quipped. “He is talented beyond belief, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say this was a great move for you and your family.”

Sean Coady, who was sworn in as Utica’s new police chief during the beginning of the City Council meeting, said he enjoyed working with McGrail.

“By nature, the Police Department spends a lot of time with its city attorney,” Coady said. “Throughout the years, I’ve seen him as just a remarkable resource for the Police Department. He’s been a great representative for our city, and we shared a lot of personal and professional moments together.”

Dionne said he and McGrail attended Utica High School together and, since Dionne took office, the two became fast friends.

“He’s the one person I call three or four times a day,” Dionne said jokingly. “Mr. McGrail, we sadly accept your resignation, and we welcome Mrs. Belau to our team as our litigator and our mentor.”

Belau has served as an assistant attorney for the city of Utica, chairwoman of the city’s Charter Revision Commission, a Macomb County commissioner and an assistant prosecuting attorney for the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.

“My sister, Linda, has been a sister, colleague, advisor, mentor, trainer, protector, but most importantly, my great friend,” McGrail said.

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