Cal Cities legal publications provide key insights on challenging ethical issues and attorney-city council relationships
The League of California Cities recently published two key guides to help city attorneys establish and maintain a sound and productive professional relationship with their city council, as well as address the challenging ethical issues they may counter. A city attorney’s job is to serve as the legal advisor for a city, but what that entails on a day-to-day basis can be wide-ranging, varies from city to city, and is governed by broad public ethics laws.
“Counsel and Council: A Guide to Building a Productive Attorney-City Council Relationship” provides city attorneys and council members with a common understanding of their shared relationship, along with relationship-building advice and the long-standing principles that guide them.
The traditional attorney-client relationship is usually seen as static and one-dimensional. In contrast, the attorney-city council relationship is typically dynamic and multidimensional. A city attorney must be responsive to the needs of many individuals and agencies, as well as the changing the policies, priorities, and laws that govern city conduct. Among the issues addressed are:
- The role and function of a city attorney.
- The recruitment, selection, and terms of engagement of a city attorney.
- The nature and parameters of the city attorney-city council relationship.
- Best practices for maintaining constructive city attorney-city council relations.
- How to ensure an amicable and enforceable conclusion to the relationship.
Similarly, “A Guide for Local Agency Counsel: Providing Conflict of Interest Advice” helps city attorneys identify, assess, and respond to conflict-of-interest issues. City attorneys are often asked to provide advice about challenging issues, such as the disclosure of financial interests, which are governed by fairly broad public ethics laws.
Even though California’s public ethics laws have a wide effect, they do not have universal application in all instances and different laws may impact local agencies in diverse or unique ways. This guide should be used as a key resource when navigating clients through these challenging conflict-of-interest issues.
Guidance about political campaigns, campaign finance and disclosure, and the regulation of lobbyists is not covered in this publication. Although fundamental to California’s public ethics laws, these topics are generally outside the domain of city attorneys’ duties. Similarly, legal ethics and the professional obligations of attorneys are not addressed in any detail.
“Counsel and Council: A Guide to Building a Productive Attorney-City Council Relationship” and “A Guide for Local Agency Counsel: Providing Conflict of Interest Advice” are available in the resource section of Cal Cities’ website.