Thank you to the League of California Cities and its partners for recently hosting an “Essential Skills Webinar” on the relationship between city managers and city attorneys. The webinar recording is available on the League’s YouTube Channel; you can also see it embedded below.
Here are some of the key takeaways and questions for California city managers to consider when it comes to establishing/strengthening your relationship with your City Attorney:
- How often do you have informal meetings with your City Attorney, just to get to know them better on a personal level?
- Set expectations for what advice you want from your City Attorney: strictly legal only, or are you open to general advice?
- “Unless it’s a birthday present, surprises are unwelcome.” Discuss potentially controversial items or proposals privately first.
- Before they alert you to an issue, do you want your City Attorney to also have a tentative solution/plan (including funding, staffing & timeline considerations)?
- Should the City Attorney immediately squash a Council Member’s attempt to discuss an item not on the agenda? Or let Council discuss briefly to see if they suggest agendizing an issue?
- Make sure you and your City Attorney can see each other and quickly/quietly communicate during public meetings!
- Ensure City staff also understand the chain of command and when they should/should not communicate directly with the City Attorney about an issue.