The City Attorney of the City of Ontario, California

 

After yesterday’s post regarding the City of Riverside and the Riverside City Attorney’s Office, I figured I would delve into another large Inland Empire City.  I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino for almost five years, and the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands for four and a half years.  Those are two of the four in-house City Attorney’s Offices in the Inland Empire.  The City of Riverside and the City of Moreno Valley are the other two.  All other cities and towns use outside City Attorneys, even really large full-service cities.  As the economy betters and cities mature, I think you will see more cities with in-house City Attorneys, because it can be more cost-effective, particularly in full-service cities.

The Ontario Municipal Code does not specifically have a section on the duties of the City Attorney (or subordinates like Assistants or Deputies), but there are mentions regarding the City Attorney’s duties, and stating that the City Manager does not have authority over the City Attorney.  Ontario Municipal Code section 2-3.107(b)(1).

Ontario is a general law city, and as such, follows the Government Code’s provisions regarding the City Attorney. A general law city may appoint a City Attorney.  Government Code section 36506.  The City Attorney “shall advise the city officials in all legal matters pertaining to city business.”  Government Code section 41801.  The City attorney “shall frame all ordinances and resolutions required by the legislative body.”  Government Code section 41802.  The City Attorney “shall perform other legal services required from time to time by the legislative body.”  With the consent of the District Attorney, a general law City Attorney can prosecute state law misdemeanors.  Government Code section 41801.5.  The City Attorney, acting as a criminal prosecutor, can issue subpoenas like the District Attorney.  Government Code section 41803.7.

Government Code section 41804 sets the compensation of the City Attorney as follows: “The city attorney shall receive such compensation as is allowed by the legislative body.”  This can be done by ordinance or resolution.  Government Code section 36506.

The current City Attorney of the City of Ontario, California  is John E. Brown.  According to the 2010-2011 Adopted City Budget, the City Attorney’s budget was $389,900.  It does not break it down further.  There is also $1,000 budgeted for Legal Services for Street Light Maintenance Administration, $145,000 for Legal Services for Human Resources, $500 for Legal Services for Parkway Maintenance and Administration, $2,060 for process server expenses and court costs for Revenue Services, $15,000 for Legal Services for Information Technology, $197,600 for Legal Services for Development Administration, $5,405 for Legal Services for the Fire Department, $78,000 for Legal Services for the Police Department, Office of the Chief, $35,020 for Legal and consulting services for Police Records, $10,000 for Legal Services for Community & Public Services, $11,630 for Legal Services for Municipal Utilities Administration, $350,000 for Legal Services “Ongoing pollution litigation and Chino Basin issues” for Water Administration, $300,000 for Legal Services “Ontario Airport Plume” for Sewer Administration, $6,000 for Legal Services for Solid Waste, $15,000 for Legal Services for Water Capital/Utilities, $515 for Legal Services for Utility Equipment Services, $1, 500 for Legal Services, “court costs” for Utility Vehicle & Equipment Repair, $50,000 for Legal Services “Review of various agency acquisitions documents and contracts” for Housing, $322,400 for Legal Services for Code Enforcement Admin, $37,824 for administrative support for Code Enforcement Attorney, $4,500 for Legal Services “Review of subrecipient contracts and other issues” for CDBG Grants Administration, $2,000 for Legal Services for Admin-HPRP, $10,000 for Legal Services for HOME grants, $5,000 for Legal Services for Ideal Mobile Home Park, $2,850 for Oakland and Mission Development, $1,000 for Legal Services, “Review of contracts and agreements” for the Quiet Home Program (related to the airport), $4,229 for Legal Services for the Quiet Home Program (different line item, noise insulation), $5,000 for Legal Services for the Quiet Home Program for Property Acquisition, $3,000 for Legal Services for the Quiet Home Program for Property Acquisition (different line item); $3,000 for Legal Services for the Quiet Home Program for noise insulation (yet another different line item), $5,000 for the Redevelopment Agency for Legal Services, $75,000 for Legal Services for “Assistance with purchase and sale, disposition and development, owner participation, professional services, and other agreements” for the Redevelopment Agency, $50,000 for “Assistance with purchase and sale, disposition and development, owner participation, professional services, and other agreements” for Redevelopment Project Area 2, $75,000 for Legal Services for “Assistance with purchase and sale, disposition and development, owner participation, professional services, and other agreements” for Redevelopment Project Area 1, $75,000 for Legal Services for “Assistance with purchase and sale, disposition and development, owner participation, professional services, and other agreements” for the Cimmaron Project Area, $50,000 for Legal Services for “Assistance with purchase and sale, disposition and development, owner participation, professional services, and other agreements” for the Center City Project Area, $10,000 for Legal Services for “Assistance with purchase and sale, disposition and development, owner participation, professional services and other agreements” for the Guasti Project Area, $80,000 for Legal Services for “Assistance and review of contracts and agreements” for the Ontario Housing Agency, $10,000 for Legal Services for Downtown Senior Project, and $50,000 for Legal Fees for the Ontario Convention Center Executive Department.

This does not include legal fees associated with workers’ compensation or liability.   Each department pays a certain amount of money to risk management/liability.  It does not appear that the City Attorney’s law firm is used in liability cases, such as motor vehicle accidents.  That may be covered by insurance (other than self-insurance).

Especially with the City Attorney’s election in the City of San Bernardino, it is important to compare apples with apples.  You may not be able to compare an in-house City Attorney’s Office with an arrangement of an outside contract city attorney’s office, at least on a dollar to dollar comparison.  This is because the level of service provided by the City Attorney might be different, the differences between cities (beyond population, Moreno Valley has an in-house  City Attorney, but is not a full service city), and other differences.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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About Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law
Michael Reiter is a Redlands, California-based lawyer, serving San Bernardino County and Riverside County in Southern California's Inland Empire. Michael Reiter is a lawyer practicing in the following fields of law: Municipal Law, Code Enforcement Law, Small Business Law and Real Estate Law. Michael Reiter practices in all the local courts, including San Bernardino Superior Court, Riverside Superior Court, and the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Michael Reiter was admitted to the California State Bar in 1998. Michael Reiter was Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, and Staff Attorney for Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino. Michael Reiter serves all of San Bernardino and Riverside County, Orange County, and Los Angeles County. Michael Reiter can be reached at (909) 296-6708, or by electronic mail at michael@michaelreiterlaw.com. 300 E. State St. #517 Redlands CA 92373-5235

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