By Raiza Giorgi
The Solvang City Council is holding a special closed session to discuss the performance evaluation for City Attorney Chip Wullbrandt before the regular agenda for tonight’s meeting.
Wullbrant, from Price, Postel & Parma LLP, (PPP) has been the official City Attorney since September. Wullbrandt had been serving an interim role, after the City Council tried to fire the longtime firm Hanly and Fleishman LLP for unknown reasons last spring. Fleishman’s ultimately resigned in May of last year after 21 years with Solvang.
As Wullbrandt filled the interim role the City put out an Request for Proposal (RFP). They got nine proposals and narrowing to three firms as finalists, the Council chose Wullbrandt’s firm even though they had the costliest rates at $335 an hour.
Just for the interim time, PPP submitted a bill for July’s hours of $74,837, more than half the $135,500 budgeted for the entire year for city attorney services in Solvang. He also received $6,600 for June. No other invoices came in until the end of the year in which PPP billed $113,200 up to mid October at the November 12 meeting; and in February of this year they billed November through December for $154,825.11. The total cost for PPP for June through December totaled $349,759.11.
For comparison the city spent on average $85,000- $90,000 a year, over the past 10 years for legal fees, according to David Fleishman who gave a break down of costs dating back to 2012. The most Hanly and Fleishman charged was $90,904 for fiscal year 2014-15.
In neighboring Buellton, the city attorney, Greg Murphy from Burke, Williams & Sorenson LLP, receives a fixed monthly retainer of $10,250 for up to 50 hours, which breaks down to $205 per hour. Additional services for Murphy would be billed at $260 per hour.
In other local cities that are similar to the size of Solvang, Guadalupe pays Phil Sinco $165 an hour. Sinco retired as assistant city attorney for Santa Maria and launched an independent law practice.
During the regular agenda meeting there is an item in the consent agenda which says approval of city attorney invoices, however no supporting documentation in the agenda packet to show what his invoices are.
Other items on the agenda is a COVID-19 update. The council will consider approving a contract in the amount of $50,000 with National Development Council for 12 months, to provide the City with services to establish business assistance loan programs, assist with funding and financing of development projects and COVID-19 recovery and reimbursements.
There is also a preliminary 2020-22 financial plan forecast and policy recommendations.
The meeting will be broadcast on Channel 23 in the Santa Ynez Valley and live streamed at www.cityofsolvang.com/CityCouncil. There will be no in person participation, and anyone wishing to comment on any item will have to call into 888-788-0099 (Meeting ID: 306 652 9195) and state name and phone number and the agenda item they wish to speak on. The clerk will call you back to speak during public comment. Advance notice of speaking is appreciated by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org ahead of time.
Noozhawk’s Janene Scully contributed to this report. She can be reached at email@example.com.