The Saco City Council on Monday will discuss spending up to $15,000 to seek a court ruling on the validity of an employment contract it negotiated with the city administrator last year.

A city attorney, however, says seeking a declaratory judgment would amount to the city suing itself, which it cannot do.

Two weeks ago, the council voted not to break its contract with City Administrator Richard Michaud, who has held the city’s top position since 1999 and started working under a new contract last month. Several city councilors and the mayor have questioned the process under which the contract was negotiated, prompting the vote and a public hearing during which residents were split in their support of Michaud.

Michaud announced last summer that he would retire, but city councilors who support him persuaded him to stay by negotiating a new incentive-laden contract. That contract was negotiated while Mayor Don Pilon was out of town, angering him and prompting two city councilors to question the process and ultimately refuse to sign the new contract.

Councilor Kevin Roche, who refused to sign the contract but voted this month to keep Michaud, said he agreed to request that the issue be placed on the agenda for Monday’s meeting because he feels Pilon should have the opportunity to discuss the issue with the City Council. Roche said he doesn’t “necessarily support” spending money to seek a court judgment.

“The mayor of Saco is entitled to present his case to the council,” Roche said. “My bet is (this discussion) would be the quickest way to resolve this.”

Pilon did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Despite concerns from Pilon and several councilors that the proper procedure was not followed because the mayor did not make an appointment recommendation to the council, city attorney Tim Murphy has said he believes the contract is “lawful and enforceable.” He said the mayor’s appointment – in practice, a recommendation, because the council ultimately confirms a new administrator – was not needed because Michaud was not a new hire.

In a legal memo provided to Michaud, Murphy said the proposed motion for legal fees should be tabled or removed from the agenda because it would allow the city to spend money to sue itself.

“The City Council does not have the power to invest the office of mayor or any other councilor with a right to sue the city,” Murphy wrote. “In effect, there is no office under our charter empowered to bring a claim against the city where the suing party is acting in their official capacity.”

Murphy said it is possible for a third party – including the mayor or a city councilor acting as a private citizen – to sue the city by filing a declaratory judgment action in York County Superior Court. Maine law bars the use of public funds for private purposes, so city funds could not be used to pay for the lawsuit, he said.