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Anaheim City Attorney Cristina Talley has resigned effective April 30 with an administrative leave that begins immediately, Voice of OC has confirmed.
Talley wrote in a memo to city officials that at Tuesday night’s closed-door council meeting the council majority asked her to resign or face being fired.
The memo also states that city officials likely violated the state’s open meetings law known as the Ralph M. Brown Act when City Manager Bob Wingenroth failed to report out of closed session that the council majority asked Talley to resign.
Californians Aware general counsel Terry Francke, who also advises Voice of OC on open-government issues, said that the decision and the vote breakdown must be disclosed.
City Council members have either not returned phone calls or declined comment on the resignation, citing a provision in the Brown Act that makes it illegal to leak details of closed session meetings. Councilwoman Lucille Kring called the confidentiality requirement “sacrosanct” when she declined comment.
Francke said city officials again are wrong about the open government law.
“They are wrong about the confidentiality provisions of the Brown Act,” Francke said. “They’re not prohibited by the Brown Act from explaining why they asked the city attorney to resign. … The Brown Act permits a closed session on various topics but does not prohibit the body from disclosing information from that closed session at its discretion.”
Here is Talley’s email in its entirety:
It is with the deepest sadness that I inform you that last Tuesday evening, a majority of the City Council asked for my resignation no later than the close of business on January 31, 2013, or face dismissal at the February 5, 2013 City Council meeting. After giving this matter as much consideration as possible, given the time constraints placed on this offer, I was forced to accept the offer to resign under the terms provided by the majority. Thus, effective February 1, 2013, I will be on paid administrative leave and my resignation will be effective April 30, 2013.
I am grateful and honored to have served the City alongside each and every one of you. The City is fortunate to have such a talented and committed group of professionals leading the organization. Thank you for your partnership and, most of all, for your friendship throughout the years. I wish you all success and happiness always.
With the greatest admiration,
According to sources close to City Hall, 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, .
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 council votes don’t violate the Brown Act.