By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Third city attorney expected to cut legal costs, make city more effective
city manteca logo

The hiring of a third in-house municipal attorney by the City of Manteca is expected to accelerate municipal legal work that can bog down projects as well as save money.

Manteca with two full-time in-house attorneys currently was able to slash the need for outside legal counsel by more than 70 percent in the second quarter by going from $215,000 in October-December of 2020 down to $57,000 for the same period in 2021.

The savings over the course of 12 months will more than pay for a third attorney that is now being advertised with a salary range of $147,588 to $179,400.

And once that attorney is in place, Acting City Manager Toni Lungren expects the city to incur additional savings and — more importantly — be able to address day-to-day legal issues in a timelier manner to help move endeavors forward in a bid to improve the delivery of municipal services.

Manteca for its first 103 years operated with a contract attorney. The attorney did not maintain a city hall office. They also had other clients. The contract was for a set number of hours with time beyond that billed additionally.

It also meant when there were legal issues beyond what was covered in the contact came up that outside counsel had to be hired.

And while the city will still need to hire counsel in instances when they have issues that are out of the expertise of on-staff lawyers such as specific endeavors such as legal issues surrounding bonding, they are now doing so at a significantly lower level.

One of the biggest cost savings may be with negotiations that are now underway. Back in 2019, the city spent more than $200,000 hiring an outside legal firm to handle its negotiations. Now virtually all of the legal work connected with negotiations is being conducted in-house.

There is ample savings already in the current city attorney’s office budget of $1.3 million to fund the salary of the third attorney along with associated costs. The money being used would have gone to hiring outside counsel. Even with the third position the city is expected to continue to reduce legal spending compared to previous years.

City Attorney David Nefouse noted at last week’s City Council goal setting workshop the in-house attorney’s office will “operate like a small law firm.”

As of March 1, the city attorney’s office does not anticipate spending the entirety of its current budget due to bringing more work in-house and the success of both the city attorney and deputy city attorney roles as well as working with human resources to minimize risks on personnel matters and other departments’ high-risk matters.

The mid-year budget review showed the city attorney’s office  has used less than 3% in Professional Services and less than 20% in Legal Services.

The new assistant city attorney will focus on Development Services, Engineering, Planning Commission, and Labor Negotiations/Arbitrations, the deputy city attorney will focus on code enforcement matters and assist the city attorney and assistant city attorney on new responsibilities brought into the city’s attorney’s office.

The plan is to continue to bring more work into the City Attorney’s Office including, but not limited to arbitrations, non-insurance complaints, code enforcement matters (quality of life and new ordinances), all labor negotiations and related personnel administrative matters, mediations, and staff all publicly noticed meetings and commissions.

All legal work is now being coordinated by the city’s attorney’s office eliminating the previous practice of some department bypassing the contracted city attorney and going directly to outside legal counsel.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email