Ordinance would set out duties of city attorney
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
May 26, 2011 | 1942 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Patterson’s City Council will consider setting new guidelines for its city attorney June 7, just as city leaders begin the process of finding someone to permanently fill that role.

A proposed ordinance would outline the city attorney’s specific duties, inserting new language into Patterson’s municipal code, which now has no requirements for the city’s lead lawyer.

“This makes these duties clear to the council, as well as the public,” said Councilwoman Annette Smith, one of the authors.

Smith said the city previously laid out all the duties in a contract with the city attorney, rather than having it in code.

The most recent contract, with former City Attorney George Logan, was old and hard to find, Smith said, making the duties of the office muddy and sometimes unclear.

The newly proposed regulations would require the city attorney to attend all City Council and planning commission meetings, except when excused or disabled. Legal counsel also would be required to provide advice and opinions on matters being considered by other city boards and commissions. The guidelines also would mandate the city attorney to prepare or approve all ordinances, resolutions, agreements, contracts and other legal matters.

Patterson City Manager Rod Butler said there is nothing out of the ordinary about the proposed document.

“It’s standard in nature,” he said.

Talk of new regulations, however, comes in the wake of potential criticism from the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury regarding Logan’s role, as well as that of other former top city officials, in a dispute over the relocation of the Del Puerto Health Center.

The health center received permission last year to move from its clinic at 1108 Ward Ave. to the Keystone Pacific Business Park in west Patterson, but not before a drawn-out fight that prompted the City Council to revise its zoning rules and led the city to settle outside of court with Ward Avenue health center landlord John Ramos.

Keystone officials and Ramos disagreed vehemently about whether the health center was allowed to operate in the business park without changes to the city’s zoning ordinance, arguing over discrepancies between zoning laws and the city’s developer agreement with Keystone. Smith has contended that former Community Development Director Rod Simpson misled the planning commission by saying the developer agreement should take precedence over the city’s zoning laws.

Had Logan been on hand to advise the planning commission, the issue might have been nipped in the bud before it reached the council, Smith said.

“It is my understanding that at some point, (Logan) was told he was not needed at planning commission meetings,” Smith said.

“Had there been clear legal direction, this would have been quashed a lot earlier. It should’ve been legally vetted out.”

Calls to Logan for comment Tuesday and Wednesday were not returned.

Logan left as Patterson’s city attorney in May 2010 after 13 years in that post. Interim City Attorney Thomas P. Hallinan has served in the role since and helped craft the proposed ordinance.

Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187 or nick@pattersonirrigator.com.

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