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SMART rail district hires in-house legal counsel


The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit board Wednesday hired a full-time legal counsel, a move the agency said will save money on legal fees as it builds the train line between Santa Rosa and San Rafael.

SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian also announced that engineers had found a way to move a controversial section of tracks through Cotati farther from the houses of residents who complained the rail line was too close.

SmartThe board unanimously approved the $190,000 general counsel contract for Tom Lyons. With benefits, his annual compensation will be $231,700.

Lyons, 45, has been the Marin County Counsel for the past 14 years. A graduate of University of Pacific law school, he has provided general counsel services on contract to the SMART board since April.

Moving the position in house will save the agency money, officials said. Lyon’s hourly rate will be $111 compared with the $417 average outside counsel rate, SMART staff said.

Lyons said he will continue providing the same level of service preparing ordinances and resolutions, evaluating legal claims filed against SMART and drafting documents, contracts and agreements.

“I serve a gamut of needs,” he said.

SMART board member Shirlee Zane, who was on the search committee that hired Lyons, said his experience with legal issues surrounding transportation and public works projects made him the ideal candidate.

“He’s experienced,” said Zane, who is also a Sonoma County supervisor. “He’s got a good breadth of knowledge in legal issues. I think he’ll be great. He’s already been working for us.”

David Oster, a member of a citizens committee that oversees SMART operations, said he liked the cost savings of the move.

“It makes a lot of sense to bring it in house,” he said. “As SMART is in the construction phase, they’re going to need someone who knows how to put the pieces together.”

In his report to the board, Mansourian said contractor Stacy and Witbeck/Herzog were able to move a $3.4 million passing track project through Rohnert Park and Cotati seven feet to the east.

SMART spokesman Matt Stevens said the move was partly in response to neighbors who complained the tracks were too close to their houses.

“This effort to figure out a way to shift the tracks is an example of how we work with neighbors to create the least impact,” he said. “One of our core values is to be good neighbors.”

Mansourian also told the board that crews were in the process of laying fiber optic cables for rail communications along the 39-mile line. The agency is laying two extra cable lines, he said, to eventually lease to telephone and cable television companies, which will generate revenue for SMART.

4 Responses to “SMART rail district hires in-house legal counsel”

  1. ExRPeer says:

    @ Steveguy rarely do I disagree with you but Cloverdale has a train station….oops senior moment the choo choo won’t make it that far and they still pay.

  2. Steveguy says:

    How ready is SMART for the opening ? Not at all, as they purposefully know that the projected opening is years later than what they claim. More time to milk the system.

    They will claim a delay due to ” environmental studies” while there is not even a station started to be built !

    We are being bilked !

  3. Grapevines says:

    Well we have Farhad Mansourian pulling down $750 A DAY in salary and benefits.

    Then there is the Chief Accountant getting $500 A DAY in salary and benefits (and best part is that the train isn’t running so the accountant has no fares to count. But he’s there anyway)

    And now we get a LAWYER, for $635 A DAY in salary and benefits. $750 + $635 + $500 comes out to $1,885.00 A DAY.

    And if we project out $1,885 to a full year we have $688,025.00 a year in just 3 salaries. All this for a choo-choo that is probably not going to see anywhere near enouogh riders to pay for itself; and will probably not go any further than the 40 miles that it will open with.

    Anyone besides me feel the shaft we’re getting with this DUMB TRAIN???

  4. James Bennett says:

    Again, opossing OUR rights with legal efforts that WE pay for.

    There will be a need for lots of legal help before the Train to Tyranny has left the station.

    Lots of property rights breaches, lots of eminent domain abuse.