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Petaluma votes to hire its own city attorney staff



The Petaluma City Council voted unanimously Monday night to hire its own city attorney and end its longtime contract with Meyers Nave, a large statewide firm that handles legal matters for dozens of cities.

But from outward appearances, it may not look like much has changed: Meyers Nave attorney Eric Danly has agreed to leave the firm and becomepetaluma Petaluma’s city attorney.

Myers, Nave, Riback, Silver and Wilson – usually called Meyers Nave – and its attorneys have represented the city since 1994. The firm has six offices throughout the state and represents dozens of cities, counties and other local government agencies in California, including four others in Sonoma County.

But last year, a committee of three councilmen began studying whether it would save money to have an in-house legal staff, continue contracting out land-use lawsuits, labor negotiations and routine legal matters, or create a hybrid office.

“The committee was unanimous in its recommendation,” said Councilman Mike Healy. “We all believe this is going to be a good outcome for the city.”

A cost analysis including salaries and benefits for a four-person staff and outsourcing of some routine legal work is expected to provide annual savings of several hundred thousand dollars, City Manager John Brown said.

Meyers Nave was seeking rate increases from the city, whose costs to the firm hadn’t risen since 2004. The proposed new rate structure would have cost the city almost $1.3 million a year. Last year, the city paid the firm just over $1 million. Annual costs after set-up are anticipated to be about $900,000, Brown said.

Danly, the city’s lead attorney through Meyers Nave since 2005, received unanimous council praise Monday night.

“It’s been an honor to serve the city as city attorney,” he said following the vote. “I’m very proud and grateful the city has invited me to assist them in the creation of an in-house city attorney’s office. I’m eager to do that, excited to do that.”

Recruitments for two attorneys and a legal assistant will begin immediately. Danly will begin July 1 and the office is expected to be fully staffed in about four months.

Meyers Nave handles legal services for Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale and Cotati. Danly was also Cloverdale’s city attorney.

Danly will be paid about $185,000 plus health and retirement benefits similar to other city department heads.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com

3 Responses to “Petaluma votes to hire its own city attorney staff”

  1. Snarky says:

    Grapevines is making the wrong assumption that the City of Santa Rosa’s violation State Law (Brown Act) was due to an in-house attorney w/o the proper expertise.

    Assumptions are worthless.

    We need a criminal investigation of the entire affair.

    But, of course, the only way that will happen is for the District Attorney’s Office of Sonoma County and / or the State Attorney General’s Office … to prosecute.

    And the good old boy network of corruption in Sonoma County is already in motion to block legal action against the government criminals. You can bet on that.

  2. earthsleaves says:

    Grapevines – the current city attorney who is with the law firm the city is “dumping” because of high fees is the one being hired as a city employee and my bet is that the two other attorneys and perhaps even the legal assistant will be from the same firm that the city claims it is “dumping” because of high fees.

    Also, as with any in-house legal department no attorney has all the expertise to be able to intelligently advise on all legal matters that come to a city or a company…..so, what is left unsaid in the article and in the “decision” is who are the law firms they will turn to and have to pay on top of the almost half million dollars they are going to spend in salaries, when the “issue” is not one that the “in-house” counsel can address or litigate.

  3. Grapevines says:

    Lets hope Petaluma gets someone better than Santa Rosa did. Someone who’s advice does not end up costing the city $327,000 like what just happened in Santa Rosa.