Motion to terminate Hemet’s city attorney defeated by city council 3-2 vote

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Hemet’s newly council elected Mayor Russ Brown takes the gavel and new Mayor Pro Tem Linda Krupa gets ready to open the Dec.10 Hemet City Council reorganization meeting. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

The Hemet City Council conducted their annual reorganization and named councilmember Russ Brown as the new mayor at the Dec. 10 meeting and honored police Chief Rob Webb for his long service to the city before his upcoming retirement.

Regular business resulted in the council recommending approval in hiring Interim City Manager Christopher Lopez as the city’s new city manager with a request to investigate information on the matter of his employment agreement being made public outside of the closed session, which is a violation of the Brown Act.

A motion was made by Councilmember Karlee Meyer and seconded by Councilmember Michael Perciful to terminate the city’s law firm and city attorney Eric Vail with a 30 to 60 day notice and was defeated in a 3-2 vote by the five-member council. Meyer was concerned by the requested $100,000 in retainer fee increase and $600,000 in the litigation budget requested by the law firm to try upcoming city lawsuit trials. Councilmember Bonnie Wright said she could not see terminating the longtime city attorney and his firm with pending lawsuits coming.

“Who would handle them,” she asked.

Vail responded that the city has had more than the normal number of lawsuits filed by litigants with 25 now pending and averaging 17 to 18 per year through his firm. Meyer and Perciful voted for the firm’s termination, while Brown, Wright and new Mayor Pro Tem Linda Krupa were opposed. The resolution will come up for final approval at the council’s next meeting.

Hemet fire Chief Scott Brown’s request to have the city finance director to pursue financing options for the purchase of a new engine and aerial quint fire apparatus, which is a combination engine and ladder truck that provides pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device and ladders, was continued.

Brown also asked for the council’s approval for the finance department to send out bids for the equipment that could exceed $1 million, he said, were needed to replace two of the city’s engines with extremely high mileage. One is for Fire Station 1. The expected cost would exceed the department’s planned emergency equipment budget unless financing was found.

The council wanted the finance department to look into the better option of financing the vehicles or buying them by borrowing from the Measure U reserves and having the city fire department pay it back with interest.

“Wouldn’t that be better?” Perciful asked.

The request will be heard again at the next council meeting.

A public hearing was held over to the next meeting to consider calling for a special election to establish a community facilities district No. 2019-01 in the planned McSweeny Ranch community. The CFD, with the landowner’s approval vote, would establish the appropriation and a limit on levying the district’s special tax to pay back the building and maintenance of the projects necessary infrastructure.

The required special election vote from the property owner on the property was sent without a signature. Without the signature of the single landowner’s vote, for or against the appropriation, the CFD could not be established. A representative for the landowner promised he would have the vote letter signed by the first council meeting in January.

Webb recently announced his retirement from the Hemet Police Department after 31 years serving in many law enforcement capacities.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.