Fresno City Council appoints interim city attorney

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Fresno City Hall (January 27, 2022)

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The Fresno City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to appoint Rina Gonzales as acting city attorney after the former city attorney left for a new job.

Gonzales currently works as an assistant city attorney in Fresno. She has worked here since 2019. Prior to that, Gonzales worked for the City of Riverside as an assistant city attorney for 11.5 years. She also previously worked as a partner in a private law firm that provided legal advice to several municipalities. She earned her law degree from the University of California, Davis School of Law, and was admitted to the California State Bar in 2003.

“I am confident that Rina will provide the leadership the City Attorney’s Office needs to be successful during this time of transition,” Council Speaker Nelson Esparza said in a statement Friday.

Gonzales’ appointment will take effect on June 3.

“Rina provides a wealth of knowledge and experience having served a multitude of municipal governments since 2005,” Council Vice Chairman Tyler Maxwell said in a statement. “I look forward to his leadership throughout our annual budget process.”

The Fresno City Council will soon begin the process of recruiting a permanent prosecutor.

Earlier this month, city officials announced that former city attorney Doug Sloan had accepted a new position as Santa Monica city attorney. Sloan served as a city attorney for nine years and worked for the city of Fresno for a total of 16 years. He managed 148 staff, including code enforcement and 28 attorneys.

Unlike many department heads in the city’s organizational structure, the city attorney reports to the city council rather than the mayor’s office.

In recent years, one of the major initiatives under the responsibility of the city attorney has been the enforcement of the Fresno Rental Housing Improvement Act, targeting substandard rental properties throughout the city. Under this 2018 law and other anti-slum measures, the city attorney’s office was tasked with developing and maintaining a list of rental housing across the city for periodic inspections.

The city council also voted a few years ago to move the city’s code enforcement department under the city attorney’s office. Traditionally, this department was also under the jurisdiction of the mayor and the city manager.

Sloan’s departure was not without drama. After the announcement, Council member Garry Bredefeld alleged that Sloan was leaving, in part because Esparza extorted him. Esparza has denied the allegations and is now suing Bredefeld for defamation.

Sloan’s 2020 salary was $263,650, making him the second highest-paid person on the city’s payroll that year. The benefits increased his total compensation in 2020 to nearly $293,000.

Esparza and Maxwell’s announcement on Friday didn’t say whether Gonzales will receive a raise in his acting role. In 2021, she earned $168,246 in total salary and benefits, according to Transparent California.

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Brianna Vaccari covers Fresno City Hall for The Bee, where she strives to hold officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister newspaper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.

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