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Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 in Oakland, Calif. (Lane Hartwell/Staff)

NOW THAT John Russo has left Oakland for the Alameda city manager's job, there is a vacancy for city attorney.

Before leaving, Russo appointed his second in command, Barbara Parker, to be acting city attorney.

We believe Parker, a highly qualified attorney with more than 25 years experience practicing law in the public sector, to be the right choice to complete the last 1½ years left in Russo's term.

One can only hope that the City Council will judge Parker based on her obvious merits and not allow its decision to be swayed by the council's toxic relationship with the former city attorney.

The council has 60 days to appoint Russo's replacement. If that time elapses with no appointment, the council then has 120 days to fill the seat by a special election.

Even before Russo's departure was official, potential candidates began expressing interest in the coveted $214,000-a-year post.

These include longtime Oakland City Councilwoman Jane Brunner (North Oakland). Brunner would be required to recuse herself from the council vote. If Brunner were appointed, the city would have to hold an election to fill her council seat.

Brunner is a past council president and chairs the Community and Economic Development Committee. She is a senior attorney at Siegel & Yee, where she has specialized in employment law.

Yet neither Brunner nor the other possible contenders, has Parker's breath of experience in public-sector law.

Parker, a graduate of Harvard Law School, served five years as an assistant U.S. attorney in the civil division.

She was chosen by the State Bar of Governors to serve a 3-year-term on the Judicial Council, which sets policies for the California courts.

Parker joined the Oakland City Attorney's office in 1991 as an attorney in the labor and employment unit of the Advisory division. Russo later named her chief assistant city attorney of the division, which serves as legal counsel to the City Council, city manager, departments, agencies, boards and commissions. Parker oversaw a staff of 28 attorneys.

Oakland is grappling with a number of complex legal matters. These include ongoing legal issues stemming from the federal court-ordered police reforms. A pending city lawsuit seeking an injunction against members of a Fruitvale gang. Legal issues surrounding city efforts to license pot farms. Costly labor disputes.

Parker has a firm grasp of the issues. She understands the inner workings of the office and how it relates to other city departments.

She has a plan for tackling the department's runaway costs for outside counsel. She can hit the ground running.

Parker also has a calm, nonconfrontational administrative style, which we believe, would help repair the strained relationship between the city attorney's office and other departments.

If the council is unable to agree on a candidate, the city would be required to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a special election. That makes no sense given the city's dire finances.

We urge the council to appoint Parker as Oakland City Attorney, the best candidate for the job.