By Janene Scully
Noozhawk North County Editor
A week after Solvang City Attorney Dave Fleishman submitted his resignation, intending to stay on the job until July 31, the Solvang City Council met in closed session June 7 and excused him from the remainder of his service.
Fleishman submitted his resignation May 29, two months after an odd attempt at firing him in a closed council meeting that was called and then canceled without any discussion.
The vote on the afternoon of June 7 to release Fleishman early was 3-1, with Councilwoman Karen Waite dissenting and Councilman Robert Clarke absent due to a prior commitment.
“I wish the city staff and residents that I served with all the success going forward. I feel badly there will not be a smooth transition to whomever they choose to replace me,” Fleishman said as he left the June 7 meeting. He stopped by various departments to say good-bye to staff members on his way out.
Fleishman’s departure ends 21 years of service to Solvang with his law partner, Roy Hanley, from the Atascadero-based firm of Hanley & Fleishman LLP.
The council members declined to comment on their reasoning for releasing Fleishman before his resignation took effect, saying only that it was a personnel matter. They did report that they are hiring Best, Best & Krieger to provide interim city attorney services while they put out a request for proposals (RFP) for a permanent city attorney.
The announcement of Fleishman’s resignation came May 29 after the Solvang City Council had met the previous night for what included a special closed session involving evaluation of the city attorney.
“Notwithstanding the nearly universally positive performance evaluation session at last night’s council meeting, it is clear to me on a number of levels that this is the right course of action for me and my law partner,” Fleishman said in his resignation letter.
“The City Council majority is entitled to and should be served by a city attorney whose ethical standards and commitment to the rule of law more closely match their own,” he added.
Mayor Ryan Toussaint declined to comment at that time as well, saying it was a personnel matter.
Another closed session topic called for public employee appointment of an interim city attorney and special city auditor.
But the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes after Toussaint, who had called for the session, failed to show up, leaving others perplexed.
“That meeting came as a surprise to me, to say the least,” Fleishman said.
Solvang was involved as a defendant in “almost no litigation during (his) firm’s tenure as city attorney, something unheard of in modern municipal government,” Fleishman said.
“It has been our privilege to serve dozens of Solvang mayors and council members over our nearly 21 years in the city attorney position, a period of time equal to nearly two-thirds of Solvang’s entire existence as a city,” Fleishman said.
“I wish the city the best of luck in the coming months and years, and I thank the city for the opportunity to have served the council, staff and residents of Solvang.”
With the city attorney gone, the institutional memory for Solvang city government will be short due a relatively new City Council and a new city manager.
The current Solvang council’s longest-serving member is Toussaint, who joined in late 2016.
The next longest-serving member is Karen Waite, who was appointed to the council in late 2017.
The remaining three — Daniel Johnson, Chris Djernaes and Robert Clarke — were elected in November 2018, less than six months ago.
In addition, long-time City Manager Brad Vidro retired late last year and was replaced in April by David Gassaway.
Fleishman continues to serve as city attorney for Pismo Beach. In 2017, he ended a stint as city attorney for Guadalupe.
Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Santa Ynez Valley Star Publisher Raiza Giorgi contributed to this report. She can be reached at email@example.com.