City AttorneyCities are creatures of the law. In the 1950's, city councils could decide how, when, and what services to provide and how to finance them. Since then, through ballot initiative and legislative action, a minefield of State and Federal laws affecting local decision-making has been created. The Meyers-Milias-Brown Act now controls labor relations, the Fair Labor Standards Act now controls hours and wage issues, the Cortese-Knox Act controls annexation, the Subdivision Map Act controls land division, the California Environmental Quality Act can require extensive environmental review of any new project, Proposition 13 limits property taxes, Proposition 218 requires taxes and assessments be subject to voter approval, and the Ralph M. Brown Act directs and controls how city councils conduct their meetings. These and hundreds of other laws determine whether a city may engage in certain activities or establish approved procedures.
City Attorney's ResponsibilitiesIt is the City Attorney's function to advise the City Council (and the various departments of the City) as to the scope of the City's authority within this constitutional and statutory framework and to ensure that the procedures set forth are followed.
In addition to this basic responsibility, the City Attorney is responsible for handling or supervising the handling of all litigation initiated against the City. Forty to fifty claims for injury and loss are received every year. Half of these result in lawsuits. Turlock, as a public entity, is unable to purchase liability insurance, so Turlock has become a member of a risk management pool consisting of approximately 50 small cities in the San Joaquin Valley who pool their resources to resolve liability cases. Turlock is self-insured in cooperation with the Risk Management Authority. The actual trial work is referred out to law firms specializing in that work. Labor unions, developers, and project opponents occasionally file litigation which is handled by the City Attorney's office.
The City Attorney is also charged with prosecuting violations of the Turlock Municipal Code which contains numerous quality-of-life ordinances regarding Animal Services, nuisance abatement, and various business activity licenses.
Finally, uniquely to Turlock, the City Attorney functions as a working member of the Executive Team consisting of the City Manager and Department Directors, which acts as a clearinghouse for implementing City policy as directed by the Turlock City Council.