City of Riverside Charter Change and the City Attorney’s Office

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I have previously written about the City of Riverside City Attorney’s Office.  In today’s Press-Enterprise, there is an article about proposed Charter changes that would limit the office of the City Manager.   The article is written by Alicia Robinson and is titled Charter changes would set limits on City Manager.  I do not know where it was located in the physical newspaper.

The section regarding the City Attorney’s Office is very interesting:

The other change removes the city manager’s authority over employees of the . . . city attorney. . . .

City Attorney Greg Priamos, who proposed the change, would only speak generally about it and would not comment on whether it was a response to a specific incident.

The charter now lets the city manager approve or disapprove hiring decisions of the city clerk and attorney. Priamos said he doesn’t think that matches the intent of the charter to keep those three positions independent.

“Having the city manager having any influence whatsoever on the personnel decisions of the city attorney can … impair the city attorney’s ability to provide independent, unbiased legal advice and counsel to my client,” which is the city as represented by the council, Priamos said.

. . .

. . . Barbara Purvis, a retired assistant city attorney . . . said she is puzzled as to why a charter change is needed. But city documents suggest former City Manager Brad Hudson was likely the impetus for the proposal.

According to documents released in response to a California Public Records Act request, former Deputy City Attorney Rachele [sic] Sterling filed an internal complaint in February alleging Hudson accessed her city emails because of her political support of Councilman Paul Davis, and because he wanted to know what city employees had told her about “improper and unethical practices in the public works department.”

In March, Sterling wrote to the council detailing alleged improprieties in awarding contracts, saying employees were directed to steer work to Hudson’s friends. Hudson and the city have denied the allegations and a city-commissioned outside legal investigation found no wrongdoing. Sterling was fired in May.

The city has never explained why Hudson was looking at the emails of one of Priamos’ subordinates, and officials have not clarified whether that could be a violation of attorney-client privilege. When asked in August, Hudson refused to say why he was looking at Sterling’s emails, but in documents from the outside law firm’s investigation, Hudson said he had heard complaints that Sterling was interfering in public works matters.

The report noted that Hudson “functioned as a supervisor” over Sterling and thus had the power under city policy to review her emails. Priamos said attorney-client privilege prevents him from discussing the email incident.

Purvis said it would be “totally improper” for anyone outside the city attorney’s office to review its employee emails. She’d like an explanation of the proposed change, she said, because the charter shouldn’t be altered without a compelling reason.

As background, Raychele Sterling was my immediate predecessor at the City of San Bernardino.  She returned to the City of Riverside in 2001, opening up the position of Deputy City Attorney in San Bernardino.  She was always very helpful to me both in the brief hour or so we discussed the cases and matters I was inheriting from her in San Bernardino, or to point me in the right direction in the Riverside City Attorney’s Office, or if I had a public works question.  I last spoke to her last year, in person, at Riverside City Hall, before her firing.  I have not spoken to her since, and I have no inside knowledge of what happened in Riverside beyond what has been reported in the Press-Enterprise.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find the charter committees proposals online, so I cannot explain the actual changes to the existing charter.  The committee will present its proposal to Council on January 24, 2012.

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) 296-6708

Cost Per Attorney for In-House City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Here is another chart comparing the various in-house City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California.  This time, the comparison is the cost per attorney.  This is the number arrived at by dividing the 2011-2012 budget (or the latest available budget) by the number of in-house attorneys.  This is not the true cost per attorney, because the budget includes such things as supplies, investigators, secretaries, and paralegals.  El Centro and Hawthorne have incredible numbers, that if true, show a very tight ship indeed.  Newport Beach’s ratio is high because it includes the outside counsel budget.  The City of Riverside spends more than $56,000 less per attorney, a number that could be attributable to the City Attorney investigators used in San Bernardino.  Oxnard and Oceanside, which are the two cities I think are most analogous to the City of San Bernardino as far as legal problems, demographics and size, are underspending San Bernardino by about $35,000 and $47,000 per attorney.  A closer examination of the differences between the offices is in order before drawing more conclusions.

City Name # Attorneys 2011-’12 Budget $/Attorney
San Bernardino County
San Bernardino 10 $3,026,000* $302,600
Redlands 1 $429,237* $429,237
Riverside County
Moreno Valley 3 $910,535* $303,512
Riverside 14 $3,451,041 $246,502
Los Angeles County
Burbank 11 $3,614,447 $328,586
Compton 4 Not Online Unknown
Culver City 4 $1,779,809 $444,952
Glendale 13 $3,720,156* $286,165
Hawthorne 3.6** $551,447 $153,179
Inglewood 10** $2,342,133** $234,213
Long Beach 22 $8,585,107 $390,232
Long Beach City Prosecutor 17 $4,824,978* $283,822
Los Angeles 444 $94,950,894* $213,853
Palmdale 2 $3,988,760 $1,994,380
Pasadena 20 $6,467,000* $323,350
Redondo Beach 6 $2,496,915* $416,152
Santa Monica 24.5 $8,672331* $353,972
Torrance 6 $2,160,322* $360,054
Orange
Anaheim 23 $5,592,143 $243,137
Huntington Beach 7 $2,311,624* $330,232
Newport Beach 5.7 $2,298,563.87*** $403,256
Orange 4 $1,411,049* $352,762
Santa Ana 8.5 $2,081,395* $244,870
Ventura County
Oxnard 5 $1,336,917* $267,383
Simi Valley  4 $983,400* $245,850
Thousand Oaks 4 $1,564,032* $391,008
Ventura 4 $1,711,112 $427,778
San Diego County
Carlsbad 4 $1,336,460* $334,115
Chula Vista 8 $2,271,182 $283,898
Escondido 7 $1,873,925 $267,703
National City 2.5 $703,760 $281,504
Oceanside 6 $1,535,860 $255,977
San Diego 147 $42,442,992* $288,728
Vista 3 $1,011,603 $337,201
Imperial
El Centro 3** $588,772** $196,257
* 2011-2012 Proposed
** 2010-2011 Adopted
*** Includes Outside Counsel budget

The City of Palmdale’s City Attorney’s Office bares more scrutiny.  Looking back at it, it has a category of “operating expenses” without a detailed break-out of what that entails.  However, even if it includes outside counsel (like Newport Beach), the number seems high.  Perhaps litigation reserves are included in the City Attorney’s budget?  The City’s budget gives the personnel expenditures of $822,060.  That includes two lawyers, and 4.16 positions in total.  The price per attorney for just salaries, wages, and similar would be $411,030 per attorney, still higher than the average.

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. #517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Ratio of Attorneys to Population in In-House City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Continuing my series on In-House City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California, here is a new set of data comparing the Attorneys to population in City Attorney’s Offices.

City Name Pop. (2011 est.) # Attorneys Atty/Population Ratio
San Bernardino 211,076 10 21,108
Redlands 69,231 1 69,231
Riverside County
Moreno Valley 195,216 3 65,072
Riverside 306,779 14 21,913
Los Angeles County
Burbank 104,304 11 9,482
Compton 96,925 4 24,231
Culver City 38,973 4 9,743
Glendale 192,473 13 14,805
Hawthorne 84,854 3.6** 23,571
Inglewood 110,028 10** 11,003
Long Beach 463,894 22 11,894
Long Beach City Prosecutor Included Above 17 Included Above
Los Angeles 3,810,129 444 8,581
Palmdale 153,334 2 76,667
Pasadena 138,915 20 6,946
Redondo Beach 66,970 6 11,162
Santa Monica 90,174 24.5 3,681
Torrance 145,927 6 24,321
Orange
Anaheim 341,034 23 14,828
Huntington Beach 190,377 7 27,196
Newport Beach 85,376 5.7 14,978
Orange 136,995 4 34,249
Santa Ana 325,228 8.5 38,262
Ventura County
Oxnard 199,722 5 39,944
Simi Valley  125,026 4 31,257
Thousand Oaks 127,557 4 31,899
Ventura 107,124 4 26,781
San Diego County
Carlsbad 106,555 4 26,639
Chula Vista 246,496 8 30,812
Escondido 145,196 7 26,774
National City 58,785 2.5 23,514
Oceanside 168,173 6 28,029
San Diego 1,311,882 147 8,924
Vista 94,431 3 31,477
Imperial
El Centro 43,145 3** 14,382
* 2011-2012 Proposed
** 2010-2011 Adopted

Not surprisingly, the ratio is usually lowest in cities that prosecute state law misdemeanors and in large cities.  For example, Anaheim has a ratio of one attorney per 14,828  in population.  Los Angeles has one attorney per 8,851 people.  San Diego, the State of California’s second largest city, has a similar ratio, one city attorney per 8,924 people.  Palmdale, Redlands, and Moreno Valley have the highest ratios.

What does the data mean?   The average in Southern California is one attorney per 20,000 population. I think in some cases, it means that some cities are richer than other cities.  I think Santa Monica is certainly in this category, with one attorney per 3,861 in population.  In other cases, it may mean that some cities are overweight.  In researching this data, I found, for example, that El Centro was considering eliminating its in-house City Attorney’s Office.  The City of Oxnard looks like it could use another attorney, but these are fiscally trying times.

One caveat is that the cities are not equal.  The number of attorneys includes attorneys in cities that prosecute state law misdemeanors.  Also, full service cities should be expected to need more help then non-full service cities.  That explains Palmdale and Moreno Valley a little, but Moreno Valley cut a vacant position in 2010, also skewing the ratio.

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

An Abbreviated Version of the Chart of In-House City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Usually WordPress is a very reliable platform, but in this case, it did not like the chart that I created to illustrate my earlier post.  Here is a more readable post without information about each City’s City Attorney:

City Name Pop. (2011 est.) City Form Charter or General Law Full Service? Elected/Appointed # Attorneys 2011-’12 Budget Prosecute State Law Misdemeanors?
San Bernardino County
San Bernardino 211,076 Charter Y E 10 $3,026,000* No
Redlands 69,231 General Law Y A 1 $429,237* No
Riverside County
Moreno Valley 195,216 General Law N A 3 $910,535* No
Riverside 306,779 Charter Y A 14 $3,451,041 No
Los Angeles County
Burbank 104,304 Charter Y A 11 $3,614,447 Yes
Compton 96,925 Charter N E 4 Not Online No
Culver City 38,973 Charter Y A 4 $1,779,809 No
Glendale 192,473 Charter Y A 13 $3720156* No
Hawthorne 84,854 General Law N A 3.6** $551,447 Yes
Inglewood 110,028 Charter N A 10** $2,342,133** Yes
Long Beach 463,894 Charter Y E 22 $8,585,107 No
Long Beach City Prosecutor Included Above Charter Y E 17 $4,824,978* Yes
Los Angeles 3,810,129 Charter Y E 444 $94,950,894* Yes
Palmdale 153,334 Charter N A 2 $3,988,760 No
Pasadena 138,915 Charter Y A 20 $6,467,000* Yes
Redondo Beach 66,970 Charter Y E 6 $2,496,915* Yes
Santa Monica 90,174 Charter Y A 24.5 $8,672331* Yes
Torrance 145,927 Charter Y A 6 $2,160,322* Yes
Orange
Anaheim 341,034 Charter Y A 23 $5,592,143 Yes
Huntington Beach 190,377 Charter Y E 7 $2,311,624* Some
Newport Beach 85,376 Charter Y A 5.7 $2,298,563.87*** No
Orange 136,995 General Law Y A 4 $1,411,049* No
Santa Ana 325,228 Charter Y A 8.5 $2,081,395* No
Ventura County
Oxnard 199,722 General Law Y A 5 $1,336,917* No
Simi Valley  125,026 General Law N A 4 $983,400* No
Thousand Oaks 127,557 General Law N A 4 $1,564,032* No
Ventura 107,124 Charter Y A 4 $1,711,112 No
San Diego County
Carlsbad 106,555 Charter Y A 4 $1,336,460* No
Chula Vista 246,496 Charter Y E 8 $2,271,182 No
Escondido 145,196 General Law Y A 7 $1,873,925 No
National City 58,785 General Law Y A 2.5 $703,760 No
Oceanside 168,173 Charter Y A 6 $1,535,860 No
San Diego 1,311,882 Charter Y E 147 $42,442,992* Yes
Vista 94,431 Charter N A 3 $1,011,603 No
Imperial
El Centro 43,145 Charter Y A 3** $588,772** No
* 2011-2012 Proposed
** 2010-2011 Adopted
*** Includes Outside Counsel budget

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

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
Orange
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
Imperial
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

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.

The Riverside City Attorney and the City Attorney’s Office of the City of Riverside, California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

This is a first in an occasional series regarding the City Attorneys of the Inland Empire.  Most City Attorneys are not in the forefront of every day politics, and are largely unknown to the general public.  This is not an accident.  When I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, I asked a former Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, then the Assistant City Attorney of another Inland Empire city, if the City Attorney of that city actually existed.  The Assistant City Attorney confirmed that the City Attorney did, indeed, exist.

The City of Riverside is by far the largest City in the Inland Empire, or as the Press-Enterprise inexplicably calls it, Inland Southern California.   The State of California Department of Finance  January 1, 2011 population estimate for Riverside, California is 306,779.  Riverside is a full-service municipality, with a police and fire departmentt, a museum, and an electric utility.

Riverside is a charter city.  The Riverside City Charter, Article VII, Section 700 states that “there shall be a City Attorney . . . who shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the City Council.

The Riverside City Charter continues, in section 702 to state the City Attorney’s duties, eligibility, and powers:

To become eligible for City Attorney, the person appointed shall be an attorney-at-law duly licensed as such under the laws of the State of California, and shall have been engaged in the practice of law for at least five years prior to appointment. The City Attorney shall have power and may be required to:
(a) Represent and advise the City Council and all City officers in all matters of law pertaining to their offices.
(b) Represent and appear for the City in any or all actions or proceedings in which the City is concerned or is a party, and represent and appear for any City officer or employee, or former City officer or employee, in any or all actions and proceedings in which any such officer or employee is concerned or is a party for any act arising out of such officer’s or employee’s employment or by reason of such officer’s or employee’s official capacity.
(c) Attend all regular meetings of the City Council and give advice or opinion in writing whenever requested to do so by the City Council or by any of the boards or officers of the City.
(d) Approve the form of all contracts made by and all bonds given to the City, endorsing the City Attorney’s approval thereon in writing.
(e) Prepare any and all proposed ordinances or resolutions for the City and amendments thereto.
(f) Surrender to the City Attorney’s successor all books, papers, files and documents pertaining to the City’s affairs.
The City Council shall have control of all legal business and proceedings and may employ other attorneys to take charge of any litigation or matter or to assist the City Attorney therein.

The Riverside City Charter further defines the City Attorney’s powers in section 704(b) regarding the Controller:

(b) Supervise and be responsible for the disbursement of all moneys and have control of all expenditures to insure that budget appropriations are not exceeded; audit all purchase orders before issuance; audit and approve, before payment, all bills, invoices, payrolls, demands or charges against the City government and, with the advice of the City Attorney, when necessary, determine the regularity, legality and correctness of such claims, demands or charges. [Emphasis added].

Riverside City Charter section 806 regarding the Planning Commission mentions the City Attorney:

The City Engineer, City Attorney, and Planning Director or their assistants, may meet with and participate in the discussions of the Planning Commission but shall not have a vote.

The Riverside City Attorney is mentioned in section 1113 regarding an independent audit:

As soon as practicable after the end of the fiscal year, a final audit and report shall be submitted by such accountant to the City Council, one copy thereof to be distributed to each member, one to the City Manager, Controller, Treasurer, and City Attorney, respectively . . . .

Riverside Municipal Code section 2.08.020(D) creates the City Attorney’s Office:

The following departments and department heads are established:

. . .
D. The City Attorney’s Office, the head of which shall be the City Attorney;

Collectively, the powers of the City Attorney and the City Attorney’s Office derive from the Charter and the Riverside Municipal Code.  The City’s website is not particularly informative about the City Attorney’s Office.  At one time, the website had an organization chart, and information about the individual deputies and assistants.  I will summarize what is on there now: a recap of the Attorney’s duties above and a mention that the City Attorney is also General Counsel to the City of Riverside Redevelopment Agency; the standard disclaimer that the City Attorney’s Office  “does not provide legal advice to the public,” that the City Attorney’s Office doesn’t prosecute state misdemeanors, and contact information for Code Enforcement.  There is also a link to a document prepared for the 100th anniversary of the City Attorney’s Office detailing the history of the City Attorney’s Office and the City Attorneys of Riverside.

 

It is in that history that the average person can find information about the current City Attorney of Riverside:

Gregory Priamos received his undergraduate degree in political science from the University of
Southern California and his Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School.
Before coming to Riverside he was a senior associate with Burke, Williams & Sorenson, a
municipal law firm in Los Angeles. While at Burke, Williams & Sorenson, he represented
numerous public entities.
Mr. Priamos began his career as an Assistant City Attorney III with the City of Riverside in
1993. In 1995, he became the Supervising Deputy City Attorney in charge of the Litigation
Services Section. On July 24, 2001, he was appointed Interim City Attorney by the City Council
and began his duties on August 3, 2001. On July 23, 2002, Mr. Priamos was appointed City
Attorney.

The State Bar of California’s website states that the Riverside City Attorney was admitted on December 7, 1988.

In the 2011-2012 preliminary budget, the latest available online at the time of this post, the requested 2011-2012 budget for the City Attorney’s Office was $3,451,041  The total personnel is 26.5 positions.  That consists of seven Legal Support Specialists, four Legal Assistants, eleven Deputy City Attorneys, one Legal Services Manager, and two Supervising Deputy City Attorneys, the City Attorney, and one half time Law Clerk.

Additionally, the City retains outside legal services, which can be found in the preliminary budget.  The requested amounts for FY 2011-2012 are $20,000 for Human Resources, $4,000 for Community Development-Planning Admin, $5,000 for Community Development Planning-General Planning, $10,000 for Community Development – Code Enforcement, $80,000 for the Police Department, $5,000 for Development/Development Administration, $2,500 for Development/ Development-Redevelopment, $1,500 for Development/Development-Housing, $8,000 for Development/Arlington Project Area, $8,000 for the Casa Blanca Project Area, $8,000 for the Magnolia Center Project Area, $20,735 for “Univ Corr/Syc Canyon” Project Area, $24,000 for the Downtown Airport Project Area, $6,750 for the Development / La Sierra/Arlanza Project Area, $15,000 for the Arlington Project Area, $5,000 for the Auto Center Project Area, $14,800 for the Development/Casa Blanca Project Area, $12,500 for the Development / Magnolia Center Project Area, $17,250 for the “Development / Univ Corr/Syc Canyon,” $49,250 for “Development / Downtown Airport Project Area,” $13,250 for the “Development / La Sierra/Arlanza Proj Area,” $25,000 for “Public Utilities-Admin / Pub Util Admin-Mgmt Service,” $25,000 for Public Utilities-Admin / Legislative & Regulatory Risk, $629,000 [sic] for “Public Utilities-Electric / PU Elec Power Supply Operation,” $155,000 for “Public Utilities-Water / Water-Production & Operations,” $25,000 for “Public Utilities-Water / PU Water Engineering,” $125,000 for “Public Utilities-Water / Water-Water Resources,” and $10,000 for “Public Works / Public Works-Sewer Sys-Admin.”

By my calculations, that’s $119,000 for General Fund Departments, $203,535 for Redevelopment, and $994,000 for public utilities, for a total of $1,316,535 preliminarily budgeted for outside counsel, on top of  the $3,451,041  requested by the City Attorney’s Office. That’s assuming no department is using the professional services line item to cover outside legal services.

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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Redlands CA 92373-5235
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