Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 2:36 pm | Fair 69º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank
Santa Barbara Athletic Round TableThe LabAmerican Riviera Bank

Goleta to Change Legal Representation

Council takes steps to create the city's own legal department rather than use contract counsel.

After some tense dialogue at the dais, the Goleta City Council on Tuesday voted narrowly to move toward recruitment of in-house counsel and the creation of a new city legal department. The city has been represented by a Riverside law firm on a contract basis since its 2001 incorporation.

The 3-2 vote, with Council members Roger Aceves and Jonny Wallis dissenting, comes after months of analysis by city staff and a subcommittee composed of Council members Jean Blois and Eric Onnen, on the benefits of a contractual relationship with the city’s current legal services provider, Burke, Williams & Sorensen, a firm that specializes in municipal law, a city-employed attorney or a combination of both.

With both sides citing cost-effectiveness, the opposing members of the council argued their opinions, with Aceves and Wallis wanting to keep the city’s legal services as they are, and Blois and Onnen pushing for in-house counsel.

Burke, Williams & Sorensen is the Riverside law firm that was first hired by GoletaNow!, the group that headed the city’s 2001 incorporation. The firm has represented the lawsuit-embattled city ever since, on cases such as the ongoing mobile home park conversion suit filed by Daniel Guggenheim and the recently won Residences at Sandpiper development case that went to the state Supreme Court.

?I think we have very good legal counsel,? said Wallis, referring to the breadth of BWS’ services, which the city pays for on an hourly basis.  A new city attorney would have to spend time learning the ropes of Goleta’s several legal battles, she pointed out, and there would be times when his or her services would not be required but the city would have to pay for that time as well.

Onnen, meanwhile, pointed out the several applications from firms and individuals gathered when the city late last year issued a Request for Proposals for legal services, a move that passed with the same narrow vote. The proposed wages were lower, said Onnen, and a Request for Proposal should have been issued long ago.

“We should have done this years ago,” he said. “We had a responsibility and we should have done it.”

Goleta’s average annual outlay for total legal services from 2005 to 2008 is about $687,000, roughly half of which was spent on litigation. According to City Attorney Brian Pierik, the cost for a new city like Goleta is high in the first few years after incorporation, but generally tapers off as the city matures.

For Aceves, it was a matter of not enough information. Discussions, he said, were somewhat limited to the possibility of hiring in-house counsel, but the study of contract legal services had, in his opinion, not yet been completed.

?I want all the facts before I make a the best decision,” he said. “You can’t give me half the facts and expect me to vote yes.?

Eight applications from individuals and eight applications from law firms were submitted to the city, and the council and city staff interviewed the selected in-house candidates.

It is likely that the city will both create a new legal department, consisting of a full-time attorney and a legal secretary or a junior associate, and retain BWS’ services for the ongoing legal matters.

“(The committee) had proposals from the individuals and we had proposals from the contract firms,” said Blois. “And we thought it would be appropriate to interview the in-house candidates first.”

According to Blois, the hired city attorney’s experience and breadth of knowledge would inform the choice for contract services.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >