Council will meet for a rare weekend session on Saturday to discuss hiring a new city attorney.
Former City Attorney Marsha Moutrie retired at the end of 2016 and Assistant City Attorney Joe Lawrence has been serving in the interim. At the Saturday meeting, the council will be evaluating candidates who were recruited during a nationwide search.
“At this time, there has been a lot of interest in the position and the recruitment is moving forward,” said Constance Farrell, Santa Monica’s Public Information Officer.
The new City Attorney will oversee a 45-person department that has a budget of $11 million. The initial job posting called for someone with an extensive management experience, minimum of 10 years of broad legal practice including working for public entities, superior academic credentials and excellent communication skills. Applications were due by Feb. 15.
According to the job description, the City Attorney’s Office represents the city and its employees in civil proceedings, prosecutes state and local misdemeanors on behalf of the People of the State of California, helps draft ordinances, resolutions, and motions, enforces local and state laws that protect tenants and consumers, fulfills civic responsibilities relating to governmental process, governmental ethics and elections and assists in the accomplishment of other tasks and goals set by the City Council.
Several councilmembers said they are looking for a candidate that can adapt to the needs of the city.
“There are so many different kinds of leadership styles,” said Councilwoman Sue Himmelrich. “I don’t think we can know until we meet people if they are the kind of leader we’re looking for. I hope we see people with lots of experience with the issues we have here. Issues like rent control and noise ordinance and affordable housing and all intricacies of being an attorney in a city that has so many different things going on at once.
Mayor Ted Winterer said a new City Attorney will need to get up to speed on the city’s existing legal issues, such as litigation over the Californai Voting Rights Act or airport issues, while preparing for new potential challenges related to the federal government.
“There’s a changing landscape in D.C.” he said. “The elimination of critical funds can impact the city and we need to know what our rights are if that should happen.”
Winterer said land use will continue to be a big part, but not the entire, job.
“First and foremost, I want someone of the highest ethics and management skills,” he said. “I’m hoping to get someone who intends to be there at this job for a number of years and we’re looking for someone who can mesh seamlessly with the existing organization and staff.”
Councilman Kevin McKeown said the department is in good shape and a new leader will need to learn to think on his feet.
“Marsha Moutrie left us with an excellent and effective staff of attorneys,” he said. “The expertise is there, and the challenge for our new City Attorney will be managing all the unanticipated issues that arise in such a complicated city. I’m looking for a nimble multi-tasker who can maintain a calm demeanor while both steering and steadying our legal ship when storm waves hit from multiple directions.”