WALNUT CREEK -- A promised national search for a permanent city attorney will never get underway because the City Council has found its man.
On Tuesday, Mayor Kristina Lawson announced that Steven Mattas, who has been Walnut Creek's interim city attorney since August, will now be the city's permanent lead counsel. Mattas came to Walnut Creek after the resignation of former city attorney Bryan Wenter.
"This means we are extremely satisfied with the level of service we are receiving, from (Mattas), his firm and from our in-house assistant city attorney, and we have decided, collectively, that the 'hybrid' approach of inside and outside counsel is working very well," Lawson said.
The City Council decided Tuesday during the city attorney's performance evaluation to hire Mattas permanently, she said.
This comes after a rough year for Walnut Creek City Hall. Wenter resigned abruptly in July, claiming two council members tried to shut down an internal investigation into city employees' handling of reported alleged child sexual abuse at the Lesher Center. Council members denied they wanted the investigation shut down, only concluded. Assistant City Attorney Katy Wisinski left soon after.
Wenter also claimed there were issues between other departments and managers that made working for Walnut Creek unnecessarily difficult.
Lawson believes the climate has changed and attributes it to significant recent staff turnover, with a new police chief, human resources director, interim arts and recreation director and soon a new administrative services director.
"The organization has had an opportunity to reset," she said. And that reset includes Mattas.
This is not Mattas' only gig. He is also interim city manager in South San Francisco; that ends April 6, when he will go back to being that city's attorney, a post he has held since 1994. He is also city attorney for Los Altos Hills. With his team, which includes other lawyers, Mattas said in an email he is confident he can manage all of the work.
The city is billed monthly by the Meyers Nave firm for work done by Mattas and his team of other lawyers and paralegals. Mattas' billing rate is $300 an hour, according to the contract between the firm and the city, and doesn't include the pay and benefits for the city's in-house assistant city attorney and paralegal. The total cost for legal services for Walnut Creek hovers around $1 million a year, and that will continue, Lawson said.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617.