Council Majority Will Allow People To Decide About Their City Attorney In November
Tonight, the city council voted 3-2 (Brinkman & West dissenting) to finally allow the people of Emeryville to decide for themselves in a November ballot whether their City Attorney should be kept or whether city legal services should instead be subcontracted out as some other cities do. The vote came down after four council members (Brinkman dissenting) voted to certify the successful City Attorney petition drive as forwarded from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. The decision about the City Attorney is now in the hands of the people of Emeryville.
The council by way of the City Manager*, ironically, contracted out the services of former Berkeley City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque to advise them in the decision. Ms Albuquerque cautioned the council against disenfranchising the people but called the City Attorney plebiscite an improper "constraint on constitutionally granted council power".
No Legal Effect
A major finding of impropriety regarding the initiative according to Ms Albuquerque centers around the fact that the Emeryville City Attorney, Mike Biddle doesn't actually work for the city proper but instead he works for a joint power authority set up by the council to allow Mr Biddle and other would be employee staff members to avoid paying social security taxes.
Council member Bukowski, the initiator of the ballot initiative called the ruling by Ms Albuquerque disingenuous, "To say that the City Attorney doesn't work for the city is a mere technicality" he said.
Ms Albuquerque said however since the City Attorney doesn't work for the city, the ballot initiative has "no legal effect" and that if the people vote to discharge Mr Biddle in November, the council could ignore the people's verdict.
Councilwoman Jennifer West joined councilman Kurt Brinkman in an attempt to stop the popular vote, calling the whole affair improper, "It ties the hands of the council to make prudent decisions" she said before casting her NO vote.
The council majority agreed that it is less unseemly to move to stop the people's will after the November vote if they have to than to shut down the vote entirely. Councilwoman Nora Davis said the initiative is "irresponsible and inaccurate" and that people were "conned into putting their names on the petition" but she added she has "confidence that the Emeryville voters will make the right decision". She called the initiative part of council member Bukowski's "vicious vendetta against the City Attorney". All four of Mr Bukowski's colleagues on the council have said they will stand by Mr Biddle and they will work to try to defeat the measure in November.
*Correction: The story reported only the council hired the outside attorney until 11:17 am Tuesday 8/9/11. Council member Bukowski noted to the Tattler that it was the City Manager that hired Ms Albuquerque.