CALEXICO – The Calexico City Council voted 3-2 to dismiss, effective immediately, the interim city attorney, Mark J. Austin of Rutan & Tucker Law Firm during closed session at its regular board meeting September 1st.
After the vote, with a look of disappointment on his face, Austin walked out of closed session knowing it would be his last council meeting as interim city attorney.
Attendees immediately began commenting among themselves, “that he must have been fired,” as the look on Austin’s face gave him away.
Austin noted the dismissal stating, “Myself, and the law firm of Rutan & Tucker, were dismissed as the interim city attorney, effective at the conclusion of this meeting. The votes in favor of dismissal were council members Real, Castro and Mayor Kim, the votes against dismissal were council members Moreno and Hurtado.”
Several in the crowd voiced their support for the outgoing interim city attorney.
“Mr. Attorney, thank you very much for doing what you did during the time you were allotted. It’s a shame that these three people are getting rid of you, because you are the best attorney that this city has ever had,” said Maribel Padilla, Calexico. “These three should be ashamed of themselves,” she added.
“Obviously we have council members who don’t care about the city.” Speaking to the mayor, German Jimenez, Calexico, continued, ” You’re so adamant about the JPIA (Joint Powers Insurance Authority), you don’t care if the sheriff’s take over (our city). You are so adamant to replace the chief, the city manager, the attorney, what agenda do you have? You want to bring someone in we don’t even know,” he added.
Council members Real, Castro, and Mayor Kim voted Best, Best, and Krieger as the interim law firm with no contract in place following Austin’s dismissal, while Moreno and Hurtado opposed.
“Mr. Austin, I hope you don’t stray too far from the city of Calexico, I would like to see out council members reverse their decision,” said Daniel Romero, Calexico. Facing the council, he added, “Difficult decisions have been made. A bigger need for the city of Calexico is to have right now excellent legal advice, and you just said good bye to it.”
Best, Best, & Krieger is a full-service law firm with nearly 200 attorneys in nine offices throughout California and Washington, D.C. and currently serve as city attorney for various cities such as Coachella, Palm Desert, San Diego, Riverside, and Indiana Wells amongst others.
Opposing council member Hurtado shared the procedure of how Best, Best, & Krieger Law Firms was hired by council member Real.
“The decision to fire the city attorney today and hire a different attorney was not shared with this council. Mr. Real was the only one who interviewed this attorney, none of us know who this person is. This is not transparency,” said Hurtado.
“When someone comes to work for a city and doesn’t have the decency to follow the normal process of being hired, then I am going to question that person,” added Hurtado.
Best Best & Krieger was sued in 2011 by the city of Bell whom they represented at the time for malpractice, alleging they had given faulty legal advice to the city.
In addition, council members also directed Richard Warne, Calexico City Manager to send out an RFP (request for proposal) for a permanent city attorney position.