By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org