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Manhattan Beach Fires City Attorney Wadden

After 15 years on the job, Wadden is terminated. Council appoints interim city attorney.

After its eighth closed session to discuss City Attorney Robert Wadden's performance, the four City Council members present unanimously voted Tuesday to terminate the 15-year city employee without severance pay. No reason was given for his termination, though Wadden has come under fire for his recent handling of the dismissal of former City Manager Geoff Dolan in 2009 and a subsequent lawsuit the city settled in March when it admitted to violating the Ralph M. Brown Act during those proceedings.

"On City Council, when one obtains the city attorney's legal advice, we and the taxpayers rely upon his expertise," said former councilman Mitch Ward, who was a city council member when Dolan was dismissed. Ward stepped down from council on March 15, 2011 when he was "termed out" after eight years of service. "We expected advice that was solid and based upon the law. I support the council's decision today."

At Tuesday night's regular City Council meeting, retired Manhattan Beach resident and former city attorney Lee Dolley was given the nod to serve as interim city attorney.

Mayor Pro Tem Nick Tell did not attend the 1:30p.m. closed session City Council meeting where the council voted to fire Wadden, but Mayor Richard Montgomery and council members Wayne Powell, Amy Howorth and David Lesser cast votes. 

Wadden, who had been on one week's paid administrative leave since March 29  after a seventh closed meeting with the council to discuss his performance, was  on the top floor of council chambers with his attorney Peter Wallin before the council adjourned Tuesday's closed session. The two mostly sat outside council chambers in the foyer area after the council moved into closed session, and at one point walked through the door that leads to city staff offices and work areas. The door requires a code to gain entrance.

The council met in closed session for almost three hours before attorney Christi Hogin, who was retained by the city in late February, delivered the reportable action from the session. Hogin said she had been hired by the city to "(a) evaluate the city’s actions with respect to the Brown Act and the Public Records Act relating to former City Manager Geoff Dolan’s separation from the city, (b)  evaluate the city’s position in the McKee lawsuit and (c)  be available to the City Council members and the city manager for consultation on legal issues as requested."

"By unanimous vote of those present, the council has voted to terminate Robert Wadden as city attorney pursuant to his restated employment agreement," Hogin said.

Wadden's restated employment agreement is attached to this article as a PDF.

Dolley, who has served as city attorney for Lomita, El Segundo and Alhambra for more than 40 years, will be paid $195 per hour. City Manager Dave Carmany has known Dolley professionally since 1981.

Carmany issued a "request for proposal" for the city attorney job last Thursday, in case Wadden was fired. Interested parties have until April 15th to meet the RFP deadline. 

Jeff Reynolds April 06, 2011 at 04:42 PM
Shame on the City Council. Bob Wadden is an excellent--and ethical--City Attorney.
Gerry O'Connor April 07, 2011 at 01:51 AM
Wow -- that's a first, especially given all the information that's surfaced in recent months. But hey -- I'm all ears. Please then explain, as but a singular example, how such 'excellent and ethical' legal oversight resulted in the numerous cited Brown Act violations, California Public Records Act violations, and the general posture of obfuscation associated with Dolangate. Did you read Wadden's filings in the McKee case? I did, and they sure left me with the polar opposite impression.
Doc Weiller April 07, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Agreed .. maybe Wadden is excellent and ethical .. but sure didnt provide the proper guidance in Dolans dismissal ... which didnt seem all that complicated, (ie., keep the public informed). Im wondering what the selection process was for the new City Attorney .. were any other lawyers allowed to apply ?
Gerry O'Connor April 07, 2011 at 11:51 PM
Just to clarify, Doc -- Council appointed Lee Dolley as *interim* City Attorney to fill the immediate void; Dolley is not even a candidate for the 'permanent' job. If you're wondering if there was a competitive process to fill the vacancy for this *interim* period, the answer is no. (Note that the City Manager stated in Tuesday's Council meeting that the selection process for a 'permanent' replacement should take "weeks, not months". Sounds a tad optimistic to me, but hopefully Council will move this along much more effectively than when they took an entire year to replace the City Manager.) The 'permanent' replacement should occur after: 1) responses to the 'Request for Proposals' are received (by April 15); 2) a public discussion, analysis and resulting determination is made, in a future Regular Council meeting, whether to retain a staff City Attorney position or contract for legal services with an outside firm; and 3) a selection (be it for a staff position or contract law firm) is then made by Council according to the criteria specified in the RFP. Council only has two direct reports -- the City Manager and the City Attorney. This time, let's hope Council follows a reasonable, public process in clearly and publicly defining all aspects of the position and then providing agendized status updates on the selection process at every Regular Council meeting until the position is 'permanently' filled.
angus April 08, 2011 at 03:36 AM
It's about time Wadden was fired. He got the city into the Dolan mess. Also, he was incompetent before that. He used to sleep during City Council meetings.
vomitus interruptus April 08, 2011 at 03:47 AM
Dolan and Wadden make me puke big time!
sam worth April 15, 2011 at 07:24 PM
Huh? The guy was incompetent. You didn't pay attention enough to see all of his mistakes?
david wachtfogel May 01, 2011 at 02:18 AM
Sure wouldn't want a lot of you folks leading my platoon. You gotta do what you gotta when you gotta do it.

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