Applicants for City Attorney Under Microscope
Desert Hot Springs, CA – We don’t know what is being said today behind closed doors but we do know it is likely generating interesting discussion. The hiring of a city attorney is the only item on today’s City Council closed session meeting and the council is interviewing prospects. The meeting started today on Saturday morning at 8:45 AM on short notice.
Former city attorney Rubin Duran generated so much publicity that he won his own web news page.
Twelve law firms responded to the city’s Request For Proposals soliciting attorney services for the city.
Brown Act Violation?
Mayor Yvonne Parks reported to The Desert Sun newspaper that the field had been narrowed down to five. If this is true then Parks has revealed privileged information outside of closed session, a violation of the Brown Act. It is not known what other closed session information Parks revealed and to whom.
The Meyers Nave law firm has been continuing performing the city attorney job out of contract for several months now.
The subject has been discussed several times in closed session and the last decision date to hire a new city attorney was November 20 but the council again failed to decide.
Today’s closed session meeting is intended to rectify that.
In recent years the city was represented with the services of the Meyers Nave firm by attorney Ruben Duran. After Duran came under fire for his participation in some shaky city deals that lost several million dollars he left that firm several months ago to become a partner in the law firm of Burke, Williams & Sorenson.
Duran’s influence began eroding with the exit of council member Karl Baker replaced with the election of Adam Sanchez to the council. Post the election of Sanchez an unsuccessful attempt was made by city manager
Rick Daniels to simply hand over the city attorney contract to Duran. That was thwarted thanks to Sanchez joining council member Russell Betts opposing the hand-off as doing so violated the city purchasing policy which required the open bidding process.
It was never clear if Duran left the Meyers Nave firm or was forced out. No one seems to know and no one is talking. Duran made a strong pitch to continue representing the city but stepped on so many toes and flubbed enough deals that bringing back Duran is a tough sell.
Most troubling of all may be the prospects of the law firm of Slovak, Baron and Empey. It should be surprising that this firm threw their hat in the ring but little remains shocking in this city anymore. Representing the city presents a variety of conflicts for this firm as it also represents the Mission Springs Water District and personally represents city manager Rick Daniels in his million dollar contract negotiations with the city.
The firm also represents Peter Chryss, the unlicensed contractor and felon involved in a million dollar lawsuit against Lee Rayburn, the talk show host who read on the radio articles from the Desert Star Weekly newspaper that were critical of management blunders by city manager Rick Daniels and city elected officials. That lawsuit is ongoing.
Revised and Sanitized
The firm also represented Chryss in another legal matter that removed the income of legal advertising from the Desert Star Weekly newspaper, the only newspaper located in the city and the only printed product newspaper that reported the local news of the city. It was never a secret that the newspaper and this writer reported critical and controversial news. The SBEMP – Chryss matter resulted in the sale of the newspaper with the new owner deleting the archives and going forward only reporting favorably about Daniels and adopting a policy of not reporting controversial news.
In the last few weeks SBEMP did a turnabout placing several three quarter page ads in the revised and sanitized Desert Star Weekly inevitably to curry some kind of favor.
The debate about considering SBEMP comes complete with all these conflicts. It’s either a powerful advantage that one law firm represents the city, the water district, the city manager and enjoys influences with the local newspaper or an expensive disadvantage. Those issues will likely be debated.
Rubin Duran is now with Burke, Williams & Sorenson with a tough uphill battle to regain the position of power he once wielded in the city. Since his plan to slide into the new city attorney contract without following the open bidding process was thwarted he has an axe to grind against two council members.
Most troubling is Duran’s signature on every sour deal the city lost millions on and a few people have a problem with that.
There is little debate that Rubin Duran’s toxic legal advice steered the city on a wandering path of controversy and litigation expenses that far exceeded the original value. It was entirely due to Duran’s bad advice the city lost control of the mobile home parks as it was taken over by the state entirely due to his counsel.
The answer for Duran’s failure was his recommending appeal, a process not guaranteed to win but guaranteed to line the pockets of whatever firm he is associated with soaking more money from the poor city. The big money for the city attorney contract is all the billable hours on extra added issues.
Duran achieved his greatest success as a city attorney by delaying or refusing to comply with public document requests and jacking up billable hours time and again. He was the keeper of city secrets and the ruling council troika has a vested interest in keeping the lid on the boil. Bringing Rubin Duran back solves nothing but pleasing the ruling elite. This will also be debated.
Old and New Faces
The Meyers Nave law firm has some advantage coming out the gate. They are familiar with the city issues and their leadership acquainted with the personalities of the city manager and council members. The firm has the depth of experience necessary to handle city affairs and, with the exception of Duran, has done well representing the city. That they took so long to part ways with Duran is problematic. They didn’t fix that problem soon enough. That will also be discussed.
Other applicants include Averez-Glassman & Colvin, a large firm out of the City of Industry: Edward Kotkin, a single attorney out of Santa Ana; Best, Best & Kriegar, a large firm with a local office in Palm Desert; OM- Olivarez Madruga, a large Los Angeles firm; Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith a large law firm with offices nationwide and in San Bernardino; Aleshire & Wynder, a large firm that already has city code enforcement contracts; Green, de Bortnowsky & Quintanilla of Rancho Mirage, already city attorney for Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage; Guiterrez, Fierro & Erickson, a firm with a broken website so we can’t report anything about the firm and Jones & Mayer a large experienced firm in Orange County.
The discussion or debate is not required to be secret in closed session but the council majority prefers it that way. The meeting ended at about 3:00 PM with nothing to report
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