2017-02-17 / Front Page

Election of attorney to City Council leads park district to hire new lawfirm

Board wants to avoid possible conflict of interest
By Stephanie Sumell

It’s often said Camarillo is a small town with few degrees of separation between residents.

That was certainly the case for the Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District, which opted to change law firms after Tony Trembley, a partner in the downtown Los Angeles firm that previously provided the park district’s legal counsel, was elected to the Camarillo City Council in November.

Because there are overlapping issues between the city and the park district, the board felt retaining Musick Peeler & Garrett could be seen as creating a conflict of interest, which led the park district to find new legal representation.

Following a staff recommendation, the park board voted to hire Irvine-based Aleshire & Wynder LLP during its meeting this month.

The district has capped its legal fund at $58,000, but what it actually spends on lawyer fees varies year to year.

Aleshire & Wynder specializes in representing public agencies and has offices in Los Angeles, Irvine, Fresno and Riverside.

The firm provides legal counsel to nine other special districts and 20 cities.

“We’re very excited to be selected to be part of the team,” Tiffany Israel, a partner with the firm, told the Acorn.

After months of evaluation, Aleshire & Wynder was the top choice among about a dozen law firms considered by the park district.

Israel took questions from the five-member board during a meeting earlier this month.

Board member Mike Mishler spoke on the importance of transparency and accountability in regard to legal representation for a public agency. He alluded to the very public legal issues involving the Camarillo Health Care District’s former CEO Jane Rozanski and former legal counsel Ralph Ferguson.

The healthcare district alleges the two were in a romantic relationship and colluded to make the public agency pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in inflated and unnecessary legal bills. That legal dispute is headed to arbitration.

Israel assured the board it would not encounter similar problems with Aleshire & Wynder.

“Absolutely, we don’t want lawsuits against us and we don’t want lawsuits against our clients,” the attorney said. “We want to do everything we can to make sure that everything is done in compliance with all applicable laws.”

Board member Bob Kelley, who is also an attorney, told Israel he was impressed by the credentials of those at Aleshire & Wynder.

And board member Mark Malloy said that as the district gets older, it requires an increasingly broad range of legal services—something the newly hired firm can provide.

“The range of people and expertise you have appear to be more than what we had before,” the board member said, later adding. “Now we have a labor union . . . and Sacramento’s always throwing new curveballs at us to swing at and miss, I’m . . . feeling good about this, that we’re adding a firm with more resources.

“You guys look like a very solid outfit and I think you can help us out.”

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