Brandman majority TERMINATES City Attorney

From the Voice of OC:

Anaheim City Attorney Cristina Talley has resigned effective April 30 with an administrative leave that begins immediately, Voice of OC has confirmed.

Talley wrote in a memo to city officials that at Tuesday night's closed-door council meeting the council majority asked her to resign or face being fired.

The memo also states that city officials likely violated the state's open meetings law known as the Ralph M. Brown Act when City Manager Bob Wingenroth failed to report out of closed session that the council majority asked Talley to resign.

Californians Aware general counsel Terry Francke, who also advises Voice of OC on open-government issues, said that the decision and the vote breakdown must be disclosed.

City Council members have either not returned phone calls or declined comment on the resignation, citing a provision in the Brown Act that makes it illegal to leak details of closed session meetings. Councilwoman Lucille Kring called the confidentiality requirement “sacrosanct” when she declined comment.

Francke said city officials again are wrong about the open government law.

“They are wrong about the confidentiality provisions of the Brown Act,” Francke said. “They're not prohibited by the Brown Act from explaining why they asked the city attorney to resign. … The Brown Act permits a closed session on various topics but does not prohibit the body from disclosing information from that closed session at its discretion.”

Here is Talley's email in its entirety:

It is with the deepest sadness that I inform you that last Tuesday evening, a majority of the City Council asked for my resignation no later than the close of business on January 31, 2013, or face dismissal at the February 5, 2013 City Council meeting. After giving this matter as much consideration as possible, given the time constraints placed on this offer, I was forced to accept the offer to resign under the terms provided by the majority. Thus, effective February 1, 2013, I will be on paid administrative leave and my resignation will be effective April 30, 2013.

According to sources close to City Hall, Talley, one of Orange County's few Latina city attorneys, is being ousted because, among other reasons, the council majority is unhappy with her position that the city is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act, a state law that requires adequate representation for minorities on legislative bodies, .

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the city on behalf of a group of Latino activists on grounds that the city is violating the law with its at-large council member electoral system. Latinos, which constitute 53 percent of the city's residents, have been unable to elect their favored candidates, the lawsuit claims.

Councilman Jordan Brandman at a recent council meeting asked that the evaluation of City Council-appointed city officials, including the city attorney, city manager, city clerk and city treasurer, be placed on the closed session agenda, saying the reviews are necessary as an early step in a city charter review process. He gave no indication that a city employee would be forced out.

Brandman with his pals Kris Murray and Disney's Carrie Nocella.

Brandman with his pals Kris Murray and Disney's Carrie Nocella.

The possible ouster also comes after a Superior Court judge voided a $158-million subsidy given to a politically connected hotel developer because city officials failed to correctly notify the public that the council would be deciding whether to grant the subsidy, a violation of the Brown Act.

The subsidy, which allowed a partnership involving Bill O'Connell to keep 80 percent of a planned hotel development's room-tax revenue for 15 years, had been a high-profile political issue throughout most of last year.

Members of the council majority have argued strongly for the subsidy, saying it would kick-start construction and create thousands of jobs. But opponents said it creates an unfair playing field for other hoteliers and was negotiated without public benefits such as living-wage jobs.

Hotel financing experts now have said the hotels could be built in one to two years without a tax subsidy.

Wingenroth had said at a cancelled council meeting turned town hall last year that he wrote the agenda item for the subsidy. The city attorney, however, is ultimately responsible for assuring that council votes don't violate the Brown Act.

From the OC Register:

ANANAHEIM – The city attorney abruptly resigned under pressure from the City Council – likely because of backlash from a contentious hotel tax deal.

Christina Talley

Christina Talley

Cristina Talley, the city attorney since April 2009, submitted a resignation letter after council members told her that she should quit by Thursday or face dismissal at next Tuesday's meeting, according to her resignation letter. Tuesday, council members discussed the city attorney's performance in a closed session.

Talley was the council's top legal advisor at the time of the January 2012 meeting to approve a subsidy of up to $158 million to help develop two luxury hotels at the GardenWalk mall near Disneyland.

In December, an Orange County Superior Court judge voided the council's decision, saying the panel had violated the open-meetings law by listing the tax proposal only as a "discussion" item on the agenda.

No one spoke against the tax deal at that meeting, but residents later protested and filed the lawsuit because they said that they were unaware that a final decision was being made that night.

Councilwoman Gail Eastman said the court decision was a reason that she wanted a "new direction" with the city attorney.

"It's been a pretty uncomfortable year for all of us," said Eastman, one of three council members who voted in favor of the tax deal.

Mayor Tom Tait, who voted against the subsidy proposal, had a different opinion.

"I'm disappointed and disturbed by this turn of events," Tait said in a voicemail. "I believe Cristina is a fantastic and extremely talented city attorney, and I'm very saddened that she's leaving."

Councilwoman Kris Murray declined to comment.

Kris Murray doesn't like Talley's legal opinions. Apparently she is going to place a job posting for a YES man.

Kris Murray doesn't like Talley's legal opinions. Apparently she is going to place a job posting for a YES man.

Councilman Jordan Brandman, who took office in December, had asked to discuss the performance of the city attorney, as well as three other top city employees who serve at the will of the council, at Tuesday's meeting. Brandman could not be reached for comment Friday.

Councilwoman Lucille Kring, also recently sworn in, could not be reached.

Talley is on paid administrative leave and her resignation is effective April 30, according to the letter.

"After giving this matter as much consideration as possible, given the time constraints placed on this offer, I was forced to accept the offer to resign under the terms provided by the majority," Talley wrote in the letter.

Ruth Ruiz, the city's spokeswoman, said the council likely will discuss a severance package at Tuesday's meeting. The City Council is scheduled to discuss an interim city attorney in closed session on Tuesday.

Talley's salary is $202,800, according to the city. She could not be reached for comment Friday.

Talley began working at the city in 1996 as a senior assistant city attorney. Previously, she was city attorney in Pasadena and worked in private practice.