Council Approves Agreement with Richards, Watson, and Gershon to Become New City Attorney

Harriet Steiner (left center) between former City Manager Dirk Brazil and Current City Manager Mike Webb, Police Chief Darren Pytel on the far right (photo from 2015).CC-UO-1

After 33 years, the city will have a new city attorney, as Harriet Steiner has announced her retirement after serving with the city of Davis with multiple firms since 1986.  A consent item executing an Agreement with Richards Watson & Gershon was approved when the item was not pulled from consent and the council approved the consent agenda.

The contract will pay the firm $245 per hour for general legal services, with special services being billed between $275 and $335 per hour.

The city council has the authority to directly hire two positions – City Manager and City Attorney.

Ms. Steiner, currently with the firm of Best Best & Krieger, has served the city since 1986 and provides the city with legal advice on a full range of topics, from land use to personnel to contracts and agreements.

When Ms. Steiner told the city that it was her intent to retire, the city last fall released an RFP (Request For Proposal) and designated a council subcommittee of Mayor Brett Lee and Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida to review proposals with staff.

The city received 19 proposals from firms across the state, and the subcommittee invited three firms to sit for interviews, first with the subcommittee and then with the full city council.

The city council, according to the staff report, “has negotiated terms and conditions of a contract with the firm of Richards Watson Gershon for legal services to be provided by lead City Attorney Inder Khalsa, with Trisha Ortiz as Assistant City Attorney and a team of other attorneys for specialty areas.”

The contract is for a three-year period, with contract extension options, and is set to begin June 1, 2019.

Staff reports that “it will continue to work with all parties to ensure a smooth transition from BBK to RWG. Services provided by BBK or Ms. Steiner to other entities with separate boards, such as to Valley Clean Energy Alliance, are not affected by this transition.”

Staff writes: “Richards, Watson & Gershon (RWG) is a statewide leader in providing legal services to municipalities and other public agencies, with more than 60 attorneys statewide.”

The firm has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, Temecula, and the Central Coast. They are a full-service law firm and currently serve as City/Town Attorney to 28 California municipalities, and as general or special counsel to local and regional public agencies across the state.

Staff writes: “They have expertise in all areas of municipal law, including specialized areas such as affordable housing, land use, environmental law and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), municipal finance, real estate, and code enforcement.”

Ms. Khalsa has “over fifteen years of experience in administrative and transactional public law, with a particular focus on land use, planning, zoning, CEQA, affordable housing, and real estate matters. She also has expertise in creation and operations of Joint Powers Authorities.”

She currently serves as General Counsel to the East Bay Community Energy Authority and Marin Telecommunications Authority and Assistant City Attorney for the Cities of Mill Valley and Fairfield.

Finally, “the City Council and City staff also expresses our gratitude to Harriet Steiner for over three decades of outstanding service of the City of Davis. She has provided astute legal counsel, institutional history and knowledge, and a strong guiding presence both for staff and 17 different City Councils.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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1 Comment

  1. Bill Marshall

    I have a perspective on this I’d like to share… prior to the City engaging HMS and Harriet for City Attorney services, the City Attorney was an individual employee… am recalling there were 3 in the 6+ years I served prior to Harriet coming on board… that wasn’t working well…

    HMS, and later BBK, were damn good answers… full service firms where Harriet was the ‘conductor’… able to know when, and who, to involve others from the firm (s) to provide expertise from toxics, to employee relations, to City financing, to… whatever the City needed, as appropriate.  I can honestly, unequivocably say, I respect her, and considered her a professional friend.  We could even argue some times, and “at the end of the day” learn from each other and come up with good solutions… I know I’m not alone in this… far from…

    Without knowing the details of the firm chosen, using a ‘full service’ firm, rather than an individual is the continuation of a damn good approach.  Kudos to CM & CC for continuing that model…


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