Saturday, December 14, 2013

Colantuono & Levin Finds Itself Being Booted Out Of Yet Another City - This Time La Habra Heights

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Our good friend George Edwardz at the legendary Avocado Express blog in La Habra Heights not only has a big story for us today, but could very well have been a major catalyst in making much of it happen. With Holly "Go" Whatley, the City Attorney there, having now resigned under something of a dark cloud.

It also looks like that all too familiar law firm Holly is employed by, our very own Colantuono & Levin, is out on its ear there as well. And they too will be packing up their carpet bags and skedaddling from that town just as quickly as City Attorney Whatley. A sight that for many long suffering residents in the LHH has been just too long a-coming. Here is an introductory and informative accounting from The Whittier Daily News (link):

La Habra Heights city attorney resigns - La Habra Heights City Attorney Holly Whatley has announced her resignation, effective Jan. 31.

Whatley, who replaced Sandra Levin about a year ago, said during Thursday’s City Council meeting that her firm, Colantuono and Levin, would no longer be representing the city.

“It seemed to me that my ability to be effective for the city is not what it once was, and it’s in the city’s interest to resign my position as city attorney.”

Whatley later declined to explain any further her comments. Whatley said she delayed her resignation to give the City Council time to find another attorney. She is the fifth attorney to represent the city in its 35-year history and her firm is only the second.

“I want to thank you for all your hard work for the city,” Councilman Brian Bergman told Whatley. On Friday, Mayor Roy Francis said he was surprised by the resignation. “But we’ll just have to move on and look for another one,” Francis said.

Councilman Kyle Miller said he appreciates the work from Whatley’s firm and the job she did individually. Whatley has had to represent the city during the past few months in the dispute over the City Hall renovation, including an appeal of a conditional use permit allowing the construction to go ahead.

Now what makes this of even greater relevance to us here in Sierra Madre is Holly "Go" Whatley has a special personal connection with our town. And not just because she works for the law firm of Colantuono & Levin, the corporate home to our very own Teresa "Red" Highsmith. This from C&L's own website (link):

Holly Whatley is Senior Counsel at the firm and serves as the City Attorney for La Habra Heights and the Assistant City Attorney for Sierra Madre.  She also heads the firm’s Litigation Department focusing on public law disputes, including post-redevelopment and other municipal finance issues, matters involving Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCOs), land use, CEQA, election, public works and employment law disputes. Holly is a seasoned litigator with significant experience in complex litigation in a broad range of areas.

You'd think that our oftentimes less than transparent City Hall might have shared some of this information with us. It isn't every day that our Assistant City Attorney gets run out of another town under less than spectacular circumstances. Then again, our City doesn't like to talk about this kind of stuff. After all, we're still waiting for some kind of an explanation about our Moody's bond rating mess.

Perhaps the folks working at our City Hall just don't like to dwell on the negative. They haven't got time for the pain. Or it is possible they simply hoped we'd never find out.

So why does Ms. Go Whatley and Colantuono & Levin now find themselves begging the pardon of the good citizens of La Habra Heights and then lighting out for the parking lot? There are a couple of Whittier Daily News articles that shed some light on what could be the cause of so tearful a departure. Here is the first one (link):

L.A. County District Attorney’s Office accuses La Habra Heights of breaking state open-meeting lawLA HABRA HEIGHTS - The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has accused the city of breaking the state’s open-meeting law twice in the last six months.

In letters sent to the city, the Planning Commission is accused of not allowing residents to speak at an Aug. 27 meeting and the City Council is alleged to have illegally engaged in what’s called a “serial meeting” in which individually they approved spending, instead doing it at a public meeting.

The District Attorney’s Office isn’t taking any further action than sending a letter in both cases.

Bjorn Dodd, deputy district attorney who sent both letters, said his office in most cases can do no more than send a warning.

“That’s what’s available as a remedy,” Dodd said. “You can only prosecute for certain misdemeanors and these violations didn’t amount to a misdemeanor.”

All other remedies would consist of having a judge tell a city not to do (the wrongful act) again and that’s only for multiple violations of the same issue, Dodd said. That’s not the case here, he added.

As astute Tattler readers are clearly aware, a City Attorney that does not steer her clients away from run-ins with the Brown Act just isn't doing the job she is being paid a lot of money to do.

The second article cites the name of our friend George Edwardz. George, who forwarded to me the articles and info you are reading here today, dropped the following note into the mix.

Actually I think the resignation is a result of bad legal advice on a CUP appeal for a 2.6 million expansion of City Hall.  I have sued the City for denying the public a fair hearing.  The City now seeks to spend $270,000 to defend their actions. That's more than the City spends on legal services for an entire year.

I can't imagine Michael Colantuono ever voluntarily leaving $270K on the table. The cause of his firm's departure must truly be a deeply troubling one.

Here is what the Whittier Daily News has to share with us (link):

La Habra Heights Council votes to recluse itself in appeal of ruling allowing City Hall renovationLA HABRA HEIGHTS - The City Council in a special meeting Monday voted to recluse itself from deciding an appeal of a Planning Commission ruling allowing the renovation of City Hall to go ahead.

As a result, city officials now are looking for someone with planning and, possibly, legal experience to serve as a hearing officer to rule on the appeal by activist George Edwards.

City Attorney Holly Whatley said the City Council has a potential conflict of interest because the city was the applicant in seeking the conditional use permit allowing the construction.

Since Edwards was unwilling to waive the conflict, a neutral third party is needed to hear the appeal, Whatley said.

City Hall, which dates back to the 1950s when it was built as a school, doesn’t conform to the city’s development code approved in the mid-2000s. It’s too close to Heights Christian Preschool and Infant Center, according to the current code. As a result, a permit was needed to allow the construction.

Edwards, who opposed the project when he ran unsuccessfully for City Council, said he filed his appeal because he believes the project is illegal.

“We don’t feel that city staff discretion was used in a legal way,” he said.

His appeal doesn’t refer to the issue of whether the school and City Hall are too close but asks for a traffic study, complaints that parking is reduced because it doesn’t include areas where people park even though the spots aren’t legal, and the project doesn’t meet city landscaping standards.

So let's see. Colantuono & Levin was kicked out of Los Alamitos. And now they are being shown the door in La Habra Heights as well?

Hopefully Sierra Madre will be next.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

49 comments:

  1. Let's Fix Los Al blog out of Los Alamitos has a good article up.
    http://letsfixlosal.com/blog/2013/12/13/colantuono-levin-resign-as-la-habra-heights-city-attorneys/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Let's just do it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it has already been tried. Chris Koerber's first request when installed as a councilman was to review the city attys in light of saving money. Two law firms made it to the final interview, and once again, the UUT4 voted to keep C&L because of "tradition". Well, I guess that's right. they're still doing their usual sub par job.

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    2. It was 3 to 2 because Capoccia initially voted against the 3 puppets.

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    3. 7:50 - If we dump Cha Cha and Spanky and get a new City Council, this matter will come back.

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  3. More Colantuono failure. This time in San Juan Capistrano.
    Judge's ruling against tiered water rates leaves city in lurch http://www.ocregister.com/articles/city-521325-water-ruling.html

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  4. How at risk are we with these bozos running our legal affairs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What do you think of the shape we're in right now?

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    2. I think City Hall has been on a steady diet of donuts since about the year 2000. They're fat.

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    3. They eat the donuts during their public break from 8 am to 11 am daily.

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  5. Furthermoгe, it does not only let me trannsfer movies and othеr common doωnloads. Thе Movie RunWatcging free movieѕ online, but chοoѕing the best and most appгopriate for your needs takes a bit of a late-night treat each week to watch him ԁoing so. Do the 3 D cinbema experience movie goetѕ are gettіng at present from the likes oof Hulu, Netflix Inc NFLΧ.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do your goats like to watch Netflix?

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  6. The law firm that the Tax Trio voted against specialized in water issues. Yep.

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    Replies
    1. Now there's a coincidence. Can you imagine how awful it would be for Sierra Madre if a city atty that actually works for the interests of the residents were to look into the water company's $20 million in debt? Plus tried to find out why our water infrastructure had been run into the ground? That would be just awful. The Tax Triplets did the right thing. For the Bank of New York.

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    2. So 8:14 are you saying the law firm with the specialty in water issues could have forced the aquifer into giving us more water?

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    3. Um, no Steve. The attorney would have looked into the Water Department's bizarre finances. Including the 2003 water bond that went from $6 million at issue to nearly $15 million in debt. Which the adults in this community are now being forced to pay for through water rate increases. Did you get all that? I can type slower if it would help.

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    4. Sheesh - lighten up 9:22. Next time I'll flag it as a joke!

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    5. Put your picture next to it. Then we can be certain.

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    6. Non-Joke: 9:22 Are you saying that you don't want to pay a legitimate debt? Or that the debt is not legitimate? Or that the money was diverted for other purposes? Or that the money was stolen? If the latter three, show some evidence.

      Or is the real issue that you just don't like that it didn't turn out the way you wanted?

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    7. I would say that turning a $6 million bond sale into $15 million in taxpayer debt is not a good result. You must have an interesting credit card portfolio if you think interest only payments on millions in bond debt is a good way to do business.

      While we're discussing things that didn't quite pan out, hows that DSP thing working out for you?

      Delete
    8. Who needs expertise in water issues in Southern California.

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    9. Actually 8:51, it's the tax quartet..Capoccia has joined their ranks. He Also voted to retain C&L.

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    10. Sorry, 5:15. Capoccia & Koerber voted to throw out C&L back in 2012. They voted to retain Richards Watson Gershon as City Attorney.

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  7. You know, it is possible that Michael Colantuono's powers have begun to diminish. He is getting up there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Colantuono is a faithful servant to the state. He's doing fine.

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    2. It looks like his firm is ditching its cities in Southern California and focusing more on his law practice in Northern California. His named partner (Sandra Levin) has a full-time job at the LA Law Library and is apparently not working at the firm at all.

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    3. Colantuono is not a faithful servant to the state....he is a faithful servant to his own pocketbook.

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  8. NO MORE TAXES

    THE CITY IS BROKE

    Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday!

    ReplyDelete
  9. No one thinks that C & L have a huge red flag and must go?
    Time is up, they have proved they are in knee deep in several Calif cities.

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    Replies
    1. I agree. This is the worst time to have inadequate legal protection. Besides, didn't Highsmith stab Alameda in the back? She can't be trusted.

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    2. Ethical attorneys cannot represent government clients who are violating the law. An attorney can loose their license and be disbarred for supporting illegal conduct. Most of you do not know what you are talking about. Inside government many elected officials are the problem and root of illegal activities. Government management, licensed government officials and licensed legal counsel are put in horrible positions when this happens. Until true Public Servants are "elected" to Protect the Public Interests versus private profits, the licensed professional staff, managers, officials and attorneys are placed in positions that no one would envy. The Public must be responsible for who they elect. Apathy, Fear and ignorance have placed crooks in "elected" positions and the voters have the responsibility of that. Look at your Secretary of State websites and at the Fair Political Practice Commission for whose money is buying your cities. Do not blame the attorneys who are sworn to uphold the laws of this state.

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    3. Highsmith did not injure Alameda. The City Council of Alameda elected by the public injured Alameda.

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  10. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

    The City Hall is Waiting To Hear
    From You!

    NO MORE WATER INCREASES

    NO MORE SEWER INCREASES

    NO MORE UUT TAXES

    Earl Richey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Earl. Here is the word for today. Ride to the sound of the battle. Help is on the way.

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    2. I will help pay for the costs to fix the city i love . I did not protest

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    3. No, you will be shelling out more for water to cover around $17 million in bad water bond debt.

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    4. Earl...

      Thank you for trying to hold the city employees accountable.
      I will be voting NO - No

      The city has a budget and must live with it!

      Delete
  11. If you have not seen the Looney Views News yet, go get one. Susan throws Joe Mosca and Josh Moran under the train on the water bond rate cut. I assume this was done for the benefit of Nancy Walsh, who must be concerned about the political backlash of the disaster City Hall is these days. It also looks like Elaine gave Susan privileged knowledge on the bond rating cut, but we scooped them anyway. I'll be covering this tomorrow. Scariest, weirdest Susan article in years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're eating their own.

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    2. Just got a copy - at first glance, it seems like pure city hall tripe - here's the news and so you can see why city hall needs more and more of your money.
      'Henderson' will never, ever bite the hand that feeds her.
      She lives off the income from the legals, but it's city hall that gives her the context to have the paper for the legals.

      Delete
    3. Susan claiming that people are trying to get something for nothing is a hoot. Did she ever pay the Dunn's for her paper? Nasty old hypocrite.

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    4. I guess that's what Josh gets for voting against the Senior pingpong pavilion. Mayor Mean does not forgive.

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  12. Does Josh have any friends anymore?

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    Replies
    1. Steve is his friend.

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    2. Steve is everyone's friend.

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    3. Steve is like Christmas fruit cake. Given by many, appreciated by few.

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  13. The firm is now known as Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley -- Sandi Levin is officially out of the firm.

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  14. Sandi Levin left the firm in December 2012 to take a full-time job as Executive Director of the LA Law Library (see http://www.metnews.com/articles/2012/snip122012.htm), but Colantuono & Levin did not change its name for another 16 months --- April 2014.

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