Anaheim City Attorney Reportedly Being Ousted

The fate of Anaheim City Attorney Cristina Talley is in doubt.

Rumors have been swirling since Tuesday night's City Council meeting that the council majority has asked Talley to resign by 5 p.m. Thursday.

After the council held a closed-door meeting and returned to open session Tuesday night, Talley had left and wasn't present to give her usual closed session report.

Instead, City Manager Bob Wingenroth said there was nothing to report from the closed session.

Council members did not return phone calls or declined comment.

Talley reportedly delivered a letter to City Hall late Thursday afternoon.

Both Mayor Tom Tait and Councilwoman Lucille Kring declined to discuss Talley’s situation, saying that disclosing information discussed in closed session would violate the state's open-meeting law known as the Ralph M. Brown Act.

However, if the council agreed on anything regarding Talley’s employment status, they are required under the Brown Act to disclose that information, according to Californians Aware general counsel Terry Francke, who also advises Voice of OC on open-government issues.

“Action taken to appoint, employ, dismiss, accept the resignation of, or otherwise affect the employment status of a public employee in closed session pursuant to Section 54957 shall be reported at the public meeting during which the closed session is held,” Francke wrote in an email to Voice of OC.

Talley, one of Orange County's few Latina city attorneys, is being ousted because, among other reasons, the council majority is unhappy with her position that the city is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act, a state law that requires adequate representation for minorities on legislative bodies, according to sources close to City Hall.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the city on behalf of a group of Latino activists on grounds that the city is violating the law with its at-large council member electoral system. Latinos, which constitute 53 percent of the city's residents, have been unable to elect their favored candidates, the lawsuit claims.

Councilman Jordan Brandman at a recent council meeting asked that the evaluation of City Council-appointed city officials, including the city attorney, city manager, city clerk and city treasurer, be placed on the closed session agenda, saying the reviews are necessary as an early step in a city charter review process. He gave no indication that a city employee would be forced out.

The possible ouster also comes after a Superior Court judge voided a $158-million subsidy given to a politically connected hotel developer because city officials failed to correctly notify the public that the council would be deciding whether to grant the subsidy, a violation of the Brown Act.

The subsidy, which allowed a partnership involving Bill O'Connell to keep 80 percent of a planned hotel development's room-tax revenue for 15 years, had been a high-profile political issue throughout most of last year.

Members of the council majority have argued strongly for the subsidy, saying it would kick-start construction and create thousands of jobs. But opponents said it creates an unfair playing field for other hoteliers and was negotiated without public benefits such as living-wage jobs.

Hotel financing experts now have said the hotels could be built in one to two years without a tax subsidy.

Wingenroth had said at a cancelled council meeting turned town hall last year that he wrote the agenda item for the subsidy. The city attorney, however, is ultimately responsible for assuring that meeting agendas don't violate the Brown Act.

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