In a departure from its own previous hiring practices, Morro Bay decided to switch its in-house city attorney to an outside contractor, and use in-house staff rather than an outside contractor to search for a new city manager.
On Feb. 25, Morro Bay city councilmembers voted 5-0 to hire Joseph Pannone of the firm Aleshire & Wynder as the interim city attorney, relieving Anne Russell who filled in following the firing of Rob Schultz in November 2013. The move represents a shift from the previous city policy of using full-time, in-house legal advice.
The full-time city attorney previously received a total of $209,388 per year in salary and benefits. Pannone will bill the city at an hourly rate on a sliding scale ranging from $155 per hour to $205 per hour, which the city estimates will total $149,000 in the next fiscal year.
Councilwoman Christine Johnson called it a “paradigm shift” that will align Morro Bay’s structure with nearly every other city in the county—with the exception of San Luis Obispo—that uses outside legal advice.
Councilmembers commended Russell for her work in what Councilman Noah Smukler called “a challenging situation.”
“We really are going to miss you,” Smukler added. “Thank you for your time here.”
Later in the night, councilmembers also unanimously approved a proposal by interim City Manager Edward Kreins to use in-house resources to search for his eventual replacement. Rather than spending upward of $20,000 to hire a consultant, Kreins said he could conduct a search for a new city manager at a fraction of the cost: about $1,000 to $2,000. Kreins said he has extensive experience hiring for such a position, and estimated he could complete the search, bring a list of potential candidates back to the City Council, and have a new city manager selected in four to five months.
Councilmembers unanimously and happily gave Kreins the OK to conduct his search. Smukler noted, “He’s qualified, he’s willing, and he’s affordable.”