Manteca is now in the hunt for a city attorney, a deputy city attorney, and a legal assistant.
The need to do so was triggered by the city’s contract attorney John Brinton’s decision to retire as of Sept. 30. That also goes for Don Lupal who serves as the city’s assistant city attorney. Both are members of the McFall, Burnett & Brinton Law Firm that’s primary focus is family law.
Brinton has served as Manteca’s city attorney for 41 years. The firm founded by the late John McFall who served as the city attorney before being elected to the California State Assembly and then Congress where he rose to the third most powerful position as the Majority Whip has represented Manteca for more than 80 years.
The resignation dated Aug. 10 caught city administrators off guard. During a council meeting earlier this year Brinton voiced the expectation he would be working for another two to three years before retiring.
At that meeting council indicated they wanted to start work on eventually transitioning to an in-house attorney.
The move would mean the city would be represented by legal counsel that has only one client — the City of Manteca. It would also allow cutting back on the need for an outside labor attorney. The city would still need to retain outside legal counsel for specialty work such as bond underwriting and major lawsuit as they currently do.
Manteca during the past five years has spent an annual average of $600,000 on legal services. That includes about $300,000 paid to Brinton’s firm, $200,000 for RWG Inc. that handles labor issues, and $75,000 for the services of Sloan & Sakai.
It will cost $718,000 a year for an in-house city attorney’s office. The compensation would include $308,000 for the city attorney, $245,000 for a deputy city attorney, and $165,000 for a legal assistant.
Unlike other department heads, the city attorney would be hired by the City Council. The only other city employee the council hires is the city manager.
The plan is to have the city attorney serve as the council’s attorney and the deputy city attorney as the planning commission attorney. That way one attorney’s main focus of expertise would be land use issues that are increasing as the city grows and state laws change.
It is unusual for today for California cities the size of Manteca with 85,000 residents not to have an in-house city attorney. Many smaller jurisdictions such as Escalon and Ripon contract with law firms.
Manteca’s staffing plan is somewhat less robust for some cities of similar size
Merced — a city with 83,360 residents — has a city attorney, an assistant city attorney, a deputy city attorney, a paralegal, and a legal secretary. Napa with a population of 78,130 has a city attorney, an assistant city attorney, a deputy city attorney, and a legal secretary.
Given the municipal code is missing any reference to a city attorney’s office, the City Council will be asked to create a code chapter for that purpose as well as authorize the funding of an in-house city attorney’s office when they meet remotely Tuesday at 7 p.m. The meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s website as well as broadcasted on Comcast Cable 97.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com