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In Los Angeles, the City Council has decided to hire its own legal counsel, citing a shaky relationship with City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.

According to the Los Angeles Times, council members say the legal work generated by Delgadillo’s office is often untimely and suspect.

The move, according to several sources, is largely motivated by some council members’ frustration over Delgadillo’s mixed record in defending council legislation in court, the quality of his office’s advice and, to a lesser degree, the settlements his office negotiates in lawsuits against the city.

“Frequently we weren’t getting ordinances out fast enough, and sometimes we were getting inconsistent legal advice,” said Councilman Greig Smith, who spearheaded the efforts to hire another attorney.

As a result, the move allows the City Council’s legislative analyst to employ a staff attorney, although a spokesman for Delgadillo argues that the elected city attorney still serves as the chief legal advisor to all departments of the city, including the council.

Read the story here.

The tension between the council and the city attorney in Los Angeles mirrors a similar relationship that exists in San Diego. Aside from calling for some council members to resign at various times, San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre has rankled the City Council by butting heads with them over his role and his legal stances.

In San Diego, the council has tried to wrestle control of the city’s major pension case and a lawsuit over affordable housing.

Council President Scott Peters even sued to disqualify Aguirre from the main pension case, but withdrew his motion a few weeks ago.

The council has often complained about not receiving advice with enough time to study it before it acts, such as with the pending Securities and Exchange Commission settlement.

Aguirre, like Delgadillo, argues that he was elected to provide independent advice and not opinions that suit the council’s needs. In addition, the San Diego city attorney often asserts that he can unilaterally file litigation on the city’s behalf. He once criticized Peters and former City Manager Lamont Ewell for making comments that Aguirre interpreted to be legal advice.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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