Anaheim Council Set to Appoint City Attorney With Connections to Brandman

Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman at a council meeting.

Adam Elmahrek/Voice of OC

Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman at a council meeting.

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The Anaheim City Council will vote Tuesday to appoint Arturo N. Fierro, the father of City Councilman Jordan Brandman’s campaign manager and policy aide, as the new city attorney.

If the City Council approves Fierro’s appointment Tuesday, he will begin work the next day with an annual salary of $210,500, according to the proposed contract posted on the city’s website Friday evening.

Fierro comes to Anaheim from the city of Chino, where he is the assistant city attorney, and previously was the contract city attorney for the cities of Coachella and Cudahy. He graduated from Harvard Law and is a partner at the Chino-based Gutierrez, Fierro & Erickson.

The city conducted a nationwide recruitment and received 25 applications for the position, according to city spokesman Mike Lyster.

Mayor Tom Tait told Voice of OC last week that he will vote against Fierro’s appointment because he believes members of the council majority, which includes Brandman and councilwomen Kris Murray and Lucille Kring, are attempting to bring in a city attorney before the November election changes the council dynamic.

“For the at-large-elected council majority to appoint a new city attorney on the eve of district elections is outrageous,” Tait said. “They’re trying to cram the decision in.”

Brandman said the city has “too many pressing issues” to leave the position vacant.

“The City Attorney’s office needs leadership, and the people of Anaheim deserve to be represented by a competent professional who is appointed by their elected representatives,” Brandman said in an email.

He noted that Arturo Fierro was the first in his family to go to college and has lived in Anaheim.

“Mr. Fierro rose to the top of the list of applicants during this very thorough process for one reason alone, he’s an eminently qualified municipal attorney who has practiced law for nearly 30 years,” Brandman said.

Potential Conflicts?

Fierro’s family has long-established connections to Brandman. His son, Daniel Fierro, is both Brandman’s campaign manager and his part-time policy aide.

In addition, Daniel Fierro and Brandman used to work together as policy aides for state Assemblyman Ian Calderon. Brandman is a district director for Calderon, a Democrat who represents southeastern Los Angeles County, and Daniel Fierro was a field representative until June.

Ian Calderon is the nephew of Ron and Tom Calderon, two longtime state legislators who were caught in an FBI bribery sting earlier this year.

Ron Calderon, who will be sentenced later this month, is charged with taking bribes from an undercover FBI agent in exchange for advocating for tax credit extensions. Tom Calderon will serve a year in federal custody for laundering the bribes accepted by his brother.

Brandman also hired Daniel Fierro’s wife, Felicia Fierro, as a policy aide.

Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said the city has no reason to believe Brandman will need to recuse himself from voting on the appointment.

“We are unaware of any city policy that would require Council Member Brandman to recuse himself from the selection process,” Lyster said.

Brandman said he disclosed his connections to Arturo Fierro to other council members and is “confident there is no conflict of interest.”

State conflict of interest laws disqualify elected officials from making decisions that will impact their personal finances or that of their spouse or immediate family.

Arturo Fierro’s firm is also representing a person who is suing Anaheim in a personal injury case.

Lyster said the city is aware of Arturo Fierro’s lawsuit and is “seeking a resolution.”

Tait said Arturo Fierro failed to disclose that conflict to council members. “He represents an adverse party and didn’t disclose it to us, and that’s completely unacceptable,” the mayor said.

Arturo Fierro’s dealings in municipal politics have previously been questioned.

In 2008, the Daily Breeze reported that Arturo Fierro donated to a city of Carson councilman’s campaign for the state Assembly while his boss, Francisco Leal, courted council members for a city attorney contract.

In 2013, Cory Briggs, who is known statewide for his prolific filing of lawsuits against government agencies, sued the city of Chino and Arturo Fierro’s law firm.

Briggs argued that the firm participated in writing up their own professional services contract with the city, a violation of state laws governing conflicts of interest. Briggs’ lawsuits against the firm and city were later dismissed by a San Bernardino County judge.

Beyond the connections to Brandman, Tait also objects to the generous severance pay agreement included in Arturo Fierro’s contract. If the City Council would fire him, the city would pay him a lump sum worth half his annual salary.

“They’re trying to lock-in the decision by giving him an excessive severance – it would make it very hard to get rid of him,” Tait said.

Anaheim has not had a permanent city attorney since former City Attorney Michael Houston left in April. Kristin Pelletier, a senior assistant city attorney, has served as acting city attorney in the interim.

Houston was appointed to the position after the City Council abruptly fired former City Attorney Cristina Talley in 2012.

Council members will also finalize a $1.45 million settlement with Talley on Tuesday over a discrimination lawsuit she filed in October 2014.

Talley, who is Latina, claimed that members of the council tried to entangle her in political disputes, and fired her in part because they did not think she could represent the city on issues affecting the Latino community in an unbiased manner.

The city continues to maintain that Talley’s accusations are meritless.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Daniel Fierro is a policy aide for state Assemblyman Ian Calderon. He left his job with Calderon’s office in June.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • Paul Lucas

    I suggest and actually URGE the citizens to shut that meeting down and the next one like they did for the peoples map. It is clear that the council is committing a robbery in progress and appropriate actions must be taken. I believe that appropriate action is to SHUT IT DOWN! We cannot allow them to have anither meeting until AFTER THE ELECTION.

  • Paul Lucas

    This stinks to high heaven.

  • Paul Lucas

    Sounds like a conflict of interest to me.

  • Pingback: Anaheim set to name new City Attorney; Tait uses US Senate/Supreme Court Excuse for Waiting | The Liberal OC()

  • OCservant_Leader

    The OC-Elite keep their circle – very close. Why even conduct a sham recruitment? Applicants didn’t have that special sauce of nepotism.

    The public can just sit back and watch the “family” work.

    • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

      Garden Grove past. Set that frustrating model.
      Also hotel corporate free land, no tax worry giveaways.
      Our tide has turned, and looks like it rolled over to y’all.
      Bummer.

      • Cynthia Ward

        Anaheim has been doing crony capitalism on and off since the Germans landed here in 1857. Garden Grove learned it from us, and I don’t say that with any pride, trust me. In fact the whole KKK thing in the 1920s was a reaction to the crony capitalism, long story. Time for it to change. NOW.

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  • Cynthia Ward

    BTW this is a lot more than simply an appointment for a crony, folks largely fail to understand the control a City Attorney can have on decisions. If a City Attorney advises against taking a certain action, it makes it extremely difficult for a Council member to act in opposition to that advice. Since we have seen how a City Attorney can find all kinds of excuses to justify something the majority wants or to deny what they want to block, you can imagine the damage that can be done. And even taking the majority out this election leaves us stuck with a CA with potential conflicted loyalty or paying out a huge severance package to get rid of them. This needs to be cut off at the knees NOW.

    However, being ever the optimist I will say that anytime there is a huge pile of smelly stuff I have a tendency to hope there is a pony in there somewhere. And in this case, the obvious panic of the Council majority with this issue and the reappointment of Brandman to OCWD when he is not up till December tells us what their polling shows–they KNOW they are done for. NO WAY would they be this outrageous if their majority had a chance. They would be laying low and on their best behavior to ride out the election and simply continue the smash and grab post election. Their mid-campaign audacity to control even future Council policy says their goose is cooked and they are well aware of it, probably so bad that they CANNOT retrieve this mess and have no option but to get what they can NOW. That bodes well for Anaheim’s future, but we have to block these last minute lame ducks bids for power until December. Get off your butts Anaheim, if ever you needed to be at City Council and watching their actions it is from now till December.

  • Cynthia Ward

    “Anaheim has not had a permanent city attorney since former City Attorney Michael Houston left in April.”

    Correction, Anaheim has not had a City Attorney since Talley was abruptly fired and Houston abruptly put in her place. As someone with close dealings with the CA’s office since that time, I can provide a long list of FUBAR issues from the overpaid shill for the Council majority hired to be the “yes man” for anything the Kleptocracy wanted. Now they want to rush yet ANOTHER crony hack into place, with another golden parachute like they gave Paul Emery. They drop their buddies into these lush spots to do their bidding, looking more at their ability to give the answers they want than who is qualified to keep Anaheim’s General Fund, and reputation, from being harmed.

    The decisions of this Council majority have been DISASTROUS for the taxpayers of Anaheim and we need to take the car keys away from them until some grown ups can step in come December. Folks need to show up with pitchforks and torches and scream NO to this one.

    • David Zenger

      Okay. Let them hire him. And if a new council gets elected – right out the door. The cost can be laid right at Murray’s filthy welcome mat.

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    “Failed to disclose that conflict” … right off the bat. No bueno.

  • David Zenger

    Brandman said the city has “too many pressing issues” to leave the position vacant.

    “The City Attorney’s office needs leadership, and the people of Anaheim deserve to be represented by a competent professional who is appointed by their elected representatives,” Brandman said in an email.

    1) Brandman is right: there are four pressing issues – they are called district elections. And in three weeks Brandman may well be (mercifully) gone. Otherwise the comment is completely laughable, just like everything else about this unethical, empty suit.

    2) The people of Anaheim do indeed deserve a competent professional. Unfortunately City Attorneys only represent the council majority and staff – NEVER the public.

    Finally, this candidate is up to his eyeballs in shady, self-serving deals, political intrigue, and has a greasy umbilicus attached to Brandman. In other words – a perfect selection by the Kleptocracy® and PringleCorp®.

  • RyanCantor

    “We are unaware of any city policy that would require Council Member Brandman to recuse himself from the selection process,” Lyster said.

    It’s not a policy. It’s called basic human decency.

    Why city staff is unaware of it is beyond me.

    Oh, wait. Nevermind.

  • RyanCantor

    “His son, Danny Fierro, is both Brandman’s campaign manager and his part-time policy aide.”

    DING DING DING

    A new ethical low for a man who bilked taxpayers out of $25,000 by copying a paper from Wikipedia and turning it in late.

    What a real shame that the establishment powers at be in the Democratic party continue to support this individual who not only refuses to acknowledge the line between right from wrong, but who also pisses on it in his free time.

    • Paul Lucas

      Why hasnt he been made to refund that 25k?

    • Rivett

      Apparently Fierros are really great at policy advice or something, since pretty much every one of them is on the payroll for it.

      • David Zenger

        In my experience most “policy” advisors are former political campaign flunkies. I’ve never seen a policy advisor who was actually accountable to do much of anything.