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.