Your Elk Grove City Departments, Part II - City attorney's office

In the coming months, the City of Elk Grove will discuss, unveil, and approve a budget of your tax dollars. In this three-part series, we examine three departments within city hall whose function are not immediately obvious to the public.

In this second part, we look at the city attorney's office. This department is headed by Jonathan Hobbs who reports directly to the city council.   

City attorney's office - by the numbers

Total full time employees - 6

Fiscal year salaries budgeted - $1,255,457

Operating budget - $136,570

Average salary of department employee (not including benefits) - $209,242

Mean attorney salary California - $168,000 

Elk Grove median income, 2017  -   $85,556

Total department budget FY 2019 - $1,392,027

Department budget from FY 2018 - $1,300,228

Number of litigators on staff - 0

Largest vendor by dollar amount - Kronick Moskovitz; the Sacramento-based firm where Hobbs held partnership status

Amount of money spent with vendors - to be acquired 

As noted above, the city attorney's office is headed by Jonathan Hobbs, who has been a member of the California State Bar since 1996 and reports directly to the city council. Other employees are Jennifer Alves, assistant city attorney; Suzanne Kennedy, assistant city manager; Chelsea Easton, deputy city attorney; Julie Anderson, paralegal; and Sherrie Peritore, legal executive administrative assistant. 

Below is a description of the department from the city's annual budget:

"The mission of the City Attorney’s Office is to provide timely, relevant, and high-quality legal advice and guidance to the City’s elected and appointed officials, as well as City staff, and to represent the City in court and other proceedings in either prosecuting or defending the City’s position.

The City Attorney’s Office reviews, evaluates, and provides legal advice and representation to the City. The City Attorney’s Office represents the City, as an entity, and as embodied through the highest authorized legislative body, officer, or employee overseeing a particular assignment. The City Attorney and members of the City Attorney’s Office work closely with individual City officials, managers, and staff on a regular basis, and the City Attorney is ultimately accountable to the City Council as a whole."

Job descriptions

Jonathan P. Hobbs - city attorney
  • Pay range, net benefits - $267,030 (by contract) 
  • Total compensation 2017  - $351,167*
  • The city attorney works under contract and does not have a job description posted on the city website. 

  • Jennifer Alves - assistant city attorney
  • Pay range, net benefits; $146,129 - $195,826 annually
  • Total compensation 2017 -  $244,390*
Suzanne Kennedy - assistant city manager
  • Pay range, net benefits; $146,129 - $195,826 annually
  • Total compensation 2017 - $216,427*

  • Under administrative direction, assists in the administration and supervision of the City Attorney's Office; provides expert legal counsel for the City on a wide variety of complex legal matters; investigates, evaluates, and resolves complex legal matters for the City; represents the City in litigation; provides legal advice to City Planning Commission, City departments, City Council, and other boards and committees on a wide range of municipal law; receives and reviews claims and lawsuits against the City and recommends settlements; conducts legal research and drafts legal documents; assists in training, motivating, and evaluating less experienced attorneys; coordinates assigned activities with other departments and outside agencies; and provides highly responsible and complex administrative support to the City Attorney.
Chelsea Easton - deputy city attorney  
  • Pay range, net benefits - $122,380  - $164,001 annually
  • Total compensation 2017 - figures not available
  • Under direction, (Deputy City Attorney I) or general direction (Deputy City Attorney II), performs a wide range of legal services of a routine to a complex nature in representing the City and providing advice and counsel to City staff, City Council, boards and commissions; conducts legal research and drafts legal documents; represents the City in civil litigation; and provides responsible and complex administrative support to the Assistant City Attorney or City Attorney.

  • Julie Anderson - paralegal 
  • Pay range, net benefits - $61,635 - $82,597
  • Total compensation 2017 - $101,008*  
  • Under general direction, the Legal Assistant assists and provides support services for attorneys in the City Attorney's office in conducting litigation and performing various phases of legal work; provides research for the preparation of cases and documents; drafts documents and correspondence; prepares consultant contracts; and serves as a liaison with other City staff, outside agencies, and the general public.

  • Sherrie Peritore - legal executive administrative assistant 
  • Pay range, net benefits - $61,635 - $82,597 
  • Total compensation 2017 - $103,600*
  • Under direction, performs a full range of varied complex, sensitive, highly responsible, and confidential office administrative, duties in support of the City Attorney's Office; to serve as liaison between the City Attorney's Office and City staff, and outside agencies; relieves assigned staff of clearly defined and delegated administrative or technical detail; and assists the City Attorney with special programs, projects, and research.

    Memorable expenditures & events:
Perhaps the most egregious expenditure by the city attorney's office under the director of Hobbs, was with his former employer, Kronick Moskovitz and their handling of litigation against P3 International. Hobbs told the city said P3 was in "material breach" of its $695,000 consulting contract on the city's soon-to-open aquatics center. 

The Bobs' Assessment 

First off, the city attorney's office is one of the most expensive per employee departments under city hall's roof. Of course Hobbs, Alves, Kennedy, and Easton all have advanced degrees and passed the California Bar, considered one of the two hardest in the country to pass.

Based on this, this group of attorney's are highly educated, and presumably good at their profession. But their performance suggests otherwise.

So while we have a highly trained group of attorney's representing the city, how do they actually function at their duties representing taxpayers interest?

If the P3 International litigation is any gauge - which it is - they perform poorly. More details of Hobbs' P3 International debacle are available here.

Dissecting Hobbs' assessment that P3 was in "material breach" was, it turns out, piss poor legal counsel. After paying Hobbs' former business partners at Kronick Moskovitz, taxpayers netted about $6,400 from the $695,000 of wasted taxpayer money. It appears of the the four staff attorney's none are predisposed to litigate.

Going further back into Hobbs legal counsel was the 2011 debacle between the city, Elk Grove Ford, and Downtown Ford. In short Hobbs told the counsel they could reject the Downtown Ford bid, which was the lowest, if favor of Elk Grove Ford for maintenance services.

As you might expect, Downtown Ford prevailed in their lawsuit against the city.Yet again, the city counsel got bum advise from Hobbs, who at the time was employed by Kronick Moskovitz.

Looking into the future, what sort of advice will Hobbs give the city council when the time comes that Malibu-based attorney Kevin Shenkman files a civil rights lawsuit against Elk Grove over the city's alleged voter rights act violation? If Hobbs tells his supervisors what they want to hear, which has become the norm - that his staff, check, make that his business colleagues at Kronick Moskovitz can push back on Shenkman, taxpayers better head for the hills because we will not be talking about hundred of thousands of lost dollars, taxpayers will be on the hook for a multi-million settlement (see video here of independent legal advice offered to the city council during a recent meeting regarding Shenkman's likely lawsuit .) 

Naturally Hobbs could argue in a court of law - if he knew what a courtoom looks like - that he is merely following the direction of his supervisors, the mayor and the city council. That would be a highly irresponsible even for him.

Hobbs should offer counsel based not on what the city council wants to hear, as was the case with both P3 International and  Downtown Ford, but what will best represent taxpayers interests. It makes you wonder the bum advice he is offering in closed session.

If Hobbs and his city council supervisors' relationship is such that he is rendering counsel based on their parochial political interests', then taxpayers should demand Hobbs' dismissal, and the city council needs to look in the mirror to assess their supervision and who they serve - themselves or taxpayers.

Grade: D +    


Post a Comment Default Comments


D.J. Blutarsky said...

"From here on out, I'm Mr. Low Profile, just another (expletive deleted) with a job and three pairs of Dockers. If I'm lucky, a month from now, best case scenario, I'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha"

-Saul Goodman-

Eye on Elk Grove said...

It is interesting to note that the only city attorney in the past, Susan Burns Cochran, was the only one who wasn't afraid to really do her job, and that is, tell the Elk Grove City Council, "No," when it was legally warranted; trying not to get the city involved in yet another lawsuit to which Kronick would be the main benefactor of legal fees courtesy of the taxpayers.

Let's be reminded that the city of Elk Grove has historically settled all lawsuits out of court. But the outside legal fees were still off the charts!

What happened to Susan Burns Cochran? She got fired and Jonathan Hobbs was back in the seat.

What was the lesson learned here, "Three to hire, three to fire, and don't forget that when you tell us "No!"

Follow Us



Elk Grove News Minute

All previous Elk Grove News Minutes, interviews, and Dan Schmitt's Ya' Gotta be Schmittin' Me podcasts are now available on iTunes

Elk Grove News Podcast