In-House City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I was recently speaking to an investigative journalist about in-house versus contract City Attorneys.   The journalist asked me if there were a list of in-house City Attorney’s Offices in California.   Upon review, there does not appear to be a list, though the League of California Cities does keep a list of all City/Town Attorneys in California.  So, I created  a list of in-house City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California:

City Name Pop. (2011 est.) City Form Full Service Elected/Appointed Name of City Attorney Tenure # Attorneys 2011-’12 Budget Prosecute State Law Misdemeanors?
San Bernardino County
San Bernardino 211,076 Charter Yes Elected James F. Penman 1987 10 $3,026,000* No
Redlands 69,231 General Law Yes Appointed Daniel J. McHugh 1994 1 $429,237* No
Riverside County
Moreno Valley 195,216 General Law No Appointed Robert Hansen 2010 3 $910,535* No
Riverside 306,779 Charter Yes Appointed Gregory Priamos 2001 14 $3,451,041 No
Los Angeles County
Burbank 104,304 Charter Yes Appointed Dennis Barlow 1997 11 $3,614,447 Yes
Compton 96,925 Charter No Elected Craig J. Cornwell 2008 4 Not Online No
Culver City 38,973 Charter Yes Appointed Carol Schwab 1997 4 $1,779,809 No
Glendale 192,473 Charter Yes Appointed Scott H. Howard 1990 13 $3720156* No
Hawthorne 84,854 General Law No Appointed Russell I. Miyahira 2009 3.6** $551,447 Yes
Inglewood 110,028 Charter No Appointed Cal P. Saunders 2006 10** $2,342,133** Yes
Long Beach 463,894 Charter Yes Elected Robert E. Shannon 1998 22 $8,585,107 No
Long Beach City Prosecutor Included Above Charter Yes Elected Doug Haubert 2010 17 $4,824,978* Yes
Los Angeles 3,810,129 Charter Yes Elected Carmen Trutanich 2009 444 $94,950,894* Yes
Palmdale 153,334 Charter No Appointed Wm. Matthew Ditzhazy 1994 2 $3,988,760 No
Pasadena 138,915 Charter Yes Appointed Michele Beal Bagneris 1997 20 $6,467,000* Yes
Redondo Beach 66,970 Charter Yes Elected Michael W. Webb 2005 6 $2,496,915* Yes
Santa Monica 90,174 Charter Yes Appointed Marsha Jones Moutrie 1993 24.5 $8,672331* Yes
Torrance 145,927 Charter Yes Appointed John L. Fellowes III 1993 6 $2,160,322* Yes
Anaheim 341,034 Charter Yes Appointed Cristina Talley 2009 23 $5,592,143 Yes
Huntington Beach 190,377 Charter Yes Elected Jennifer McGrath 2002 7 $2,311,624* Some
Newport Beach 85,376 Charter Yes Appointed David R. Hunt 2008 5.7 $2,298,563.87*** No
Orange 136,995 General Law Yes Appointed David A. DeBerry 4 $1,411,049* No
Santa Ana 325,228 Charter Yes Appointed Joe Straka 2011 8.5 $2,081,395* No
Ventura County
Oxnard 199,722 General Law Yes Appointed Alan Holmberg 2008 5 $1,336,917* No
Simi Valley  125,026 General Law No Appointed Tracy M. Noonan 2009 4 $983,400* No
Thousand Oaks 127,557 General Law No Appointed Amy Albano 4 $1,564,032* No
Ventura 107,124 Charter Yes Appointed Ariel P. Calonne 2007 4 $1,711,112 No
San Diego County
Carlsbad 106,555 Charter Yes Appointed Ronald R. Ball 4 $1,336,460* No
Chula Vista 246,496 Charter Yes Elected Glen R. Googins 2010 8 $2,271,182 No
Escondido 145,196 General Law Yes Appointed Jeffrey R. Epp 1996 7 $1,873,925 No
National City 58,785 General Law Yes Appointed Claudia Silva 2010 2.5 $703,760 No
Oceanside 168,173 Charter Yes Appointed John P. Mullen 2006 6 $1,535,860 No
San Diego 1,311,882 Charter Yes Elected Jan Goldsmith 2008 147 $42,442,992* Yes
Vista 94,431 Charter No Appointed Darold Pieper 2005 3 $1,011,603 No
El Centro 43,145 Charter Yes Appointed Luis F. Hernandez 2008 3** $588,772** No
* 2011-2012 Proposed
** 2010-2011 Adopted
*** Includes Outside Counsel budget

I define Southern California in this case as Imperial, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

It can be difficult to directly compare cities and City Attorney’s Offices directly.  The difficulty is that different cities use different accounting.  For example, Newport Beach places the outside counsel directly in its budget.  Some cities use a Risk Management/liability account to pay for outside counsel.  Other differences are whether the city prosecutes State law misdemeanors, which increases the size of the budget and the number of attorneys.  One City offset the budget with internal fund transfers.  I just added them together to get the budgeted amount.  Long Beach has both an elected City Attorney and an elected City Prosecutor, which I have listed separately.  The population figures are  the January 2011 estimates from the California Department of Finance.  There  are a variety of definitions of “full service.”  For the purposes of this list, I define “full service” as having both a Fire Department and a Police Department.

I tried to use equivalent data.  However, some cities have not adopted 2011-2012 budgets, so I used the proposed budget if available, and the 2010-2011 Adopted budget if neither the FY 12 adopted or proposed budget was available online.  Also, some full service cities are more full service than others.  For example, Redlands has both an airport and a landfill, while San Bernardino has neither, but San Bernardino is about three times as big as Redlands in population.  Some full service cities do not have any utilities, while others have solid waste, water and electricity.  The coastal cities have harbors and have to deal with the Coastal Commission.  As far as complexity, I would imagine that the City and County of San Francisco as a the only Charter City and County in California, as well as having its own transit system, would be the most complex City in the State.

The data came mostly from the City’s website.  Sometimes, the number of attorneys comes from the City Attorney’s website, sometimes from the adopted or proposed budget, sometimes from the State Bar’s website (though it is more difficult to do than in the past), and the State Controller’s compensation website.  The determination whether the City is a Charter or General Law City comes from the list maintained by the League of California Cities.  The names of City Attorneys comes from an August 2011 list from the City Attorney’s division of the League of California Cities, and checked against the internet.  The year the City Attorneys were appointed or elected came from a variety of internet sources, such as newspaper archives, Google, or the City’s website. I couldn’t find two.  I counted from the initial appointment (including interim appointments).  I derived the data about which cities have in-house City Attorney’s Offices from Google searches cross-checked against the League’s list of City Attorneys.

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.

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 708-6055

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 300 E. State St. #517 Redlands CA 92373-5235

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