Paso Robles hires Bell attorney firm

August 20, 2010

Mayor Duane Picanco

By KAREN VELIE

Paso Robles City Council voted last night to hire the same attorney firm that signed off on the lavish salaries of city of Bell officials and employees.

Councilmembers Nick Gilman, Ed Steinbeck and Mayor Duane Picanco voted unanimously to approve the firm of Best, Best & Krieger on Thursday night. The meeting was listed on the agenda as a regular meeting, even though the city had a regular council meeting on Tuesday.

Last night’s meeting was held at a different time, in a different place and on a different day than other regular council meetings. Only three members of the public attended the meeting.

“I wandered around and couldn’t find the meeting,” Mike Hove said. “I never even found it.”

On Aug. 13, current city attorney Iris Yang, who was working for the attorney firm of McDounogh, Holland and Allen, said her employer was “winding down” and asked the council to change to her new employer, Best, Best & Krieger.

Several resident of the city have voiced their concerns over the council’s decision.

“It does seem to me that the selection of Best, Best and Kreiger for Paso Robles, the law firm that allowed for decisions in Bell, is a very bad idea,” said John Borst in a letter to the council last night. “The selection of Best, Best & Krieger sends an implied message to our citizens that our city council wants to be represented by a law firm that will allow them to act contrary to the rights and interests of the people living in Paso Robles.”

Last week, California Attorney General Jerry Brown Jr. subpoenaed records from Best, Best & Krieger as part of an investigation into the pay packages Bell city officials.


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46 Comments

  1. Sherlock says:

    This will not play out well in the upcoming November Election. The outcome was pre-determinable. Like cannon fodder, 3 guys were duped by Staff to vote in favor of the Iris issue in a super special almost secret (seemingly clandestine) Council meeting . My hunch is Staff likes Strong and Hamon and both were tipped off to stay out of it, so Hamon bailed on the meeting and Strong abstained from voting.

    The Council Member’s actions will seal their fate. Nemeth is a shoe in and Steinbeck is one and done. Nick should have been too smart to fall for this and Duane is showing his age. Someone on Staff is a genius. Now Staff gets to hand pick the new Council and Mayor. Someone has the Midas Touch.

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
    • whatisup says:

      Sherlock – Quite a tale you weave and make public on what you say are your hunches. Any facts, not hunches to back any of this up? I particularly like your characterization of the super special almost secret (seemingly clandestine) Council meeting. You mean the Council meeting that was announced the exact same way every other council meeting has been announced for years in Paso Robles( on the City website; to the list, which you and anybody else can ask to be put on, of people requesting an individual announcement of every meeting, etc.) The exact date, time and place were all prominently displayed in the announcement. The fact you didn’t know or pay attention to the meeting doesn’t make it secret.

      (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
      • Sherlock says:

        Whatisup – Political analysis is 90% mental. The other half is hunches. First, I have few questions of my own: 1) Was the meeting held like always, on the 1st or 3rd Tuesday of the month? 2) Was the meeting held in the normal spot, in the City Council Chambers? 3) Was the meeting held at its usual time, at 7:30pm? 4) Was the Bell legal firm approval mentioned in the Agenda for the meeting?

        Now let’s connect some dots: 1) No, the meeting was not held on the 1st or 3rd Tuesday, it was held on a Thursday. 2) No, the meeting was not held in the Council Chambers, it was held in the City Library, up on the 2nd floor. 3) No, it was not held at the usual time, it shows as an all day marathon meeting that started at 10:00am. 4) No, the Bell approval item does not appear to be on the agenda to me.

        My “hunch” is that you are a well educated person that is somehow connected to the City, by contract or by desire. You seem to be coming to the aid of Iris, as if you work with her or as if you are her friend. Or both. You also speak poorly of John Borst, which places you squarely in the City’s camp. Your letter could have been written by any number of City Hall employees or Council Members such as James App, Fred Strong, Ed Steinbeck, Gary Nemeth or Ron Whisenand. (It couldn’t have been Meg, she writes a better letter) If you are Ed, you need to chew everyone else out for hanging you out to dry.

        Let’s see, I like to add some intrigue to my letters, to spice up the content for the average Joe reading this publication. And since the average Joe reading this publication seems to me to be politically minded and motivated, my slants are politically skewed to catch their attention and hold their interest. Your own opinion on this issue is posted below, and I encourage everyone reading this to read or re-read yours and to decide for themselves which way the wind is really blowing.

        As for me and my hunches & opinions, it is up to the reader to decide if I am on target or not, which you seem to think I’m not, which in fact is your opinion, which in fact you are entitled to, even if it is wrong!

        Thanks for your comments and have a nice day.

        (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
        • whatisup says:

          Sherlock – No, I am not a city employee, I own my own business and live in Templeton. I do own property in Paso Robles and try to keep on top of the issues since it effects my property taxes, etc. As far as answers to most of your questions, if you read Homework’s entry below, most are answered. You also seem to think that this issue will decide the upcoming election. It won’t even come up as a serious issue. Where did you get the information from that you quote? It is wrong. If you go to the official City of Paso Robles website the agenda is there. The meeting did not start at 10:00am and it was not the only thing on the agenda. Please read the official agenda announcement. Nothing secret about it. Also, I am squarly on John Borst’s side when it comes to the Nacimiento Pipeline lawsuit, but I also recognize it might be his desire to see the City Attorney removed to help the lawsuit against the City. In my opinion, trying to gain advantage in the lawsuit is not a legitimate reason to try to have a City Attorney or any City Employee replaced.

          (-5) 5 Total Votes - 0 up - 5 down
          • Sherlock says:

            whatis up – Thanks for correcting me on the Agenda Item point. I guess I was correct on the other 3. I believe the upcoming election will be interesting.

            In my opinion, incompetence, mismanagement and the lack of trust are the best reasons to have any Attorney or Management employee replaced.

            (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
            • whatisup says:

              Sherlock – You obviously have still not read the meeting announcement and agenda — I assume because you don’t want to. Plausible denial or something like that.

              My suggestion again is you have your name put on the permanent list of citizens who want to be notified directly of every City Council meeting in Paso Robles. Anybody, whether from Paso Robles or not, can ask to be put on this list. You will never have to feel you have been left out of the loop again and you will realize how much the City Council does at meetings other than the first and third Tuesday of the month. The Council are all hard workers and attend many other official meetings and functions as a Council.

              (-2) 4 Total Votes - 1 up - 3 down
              • Sherlock says:

                whatisup – Actually, for the record, I have been to the web site and reviewed quite a few of the agendas. No denying required.

                Also, I am very well aware of what CC members do. Having run for office, been elected and served the voters, I am well aware of how Cities work and who the Boss really is. I have experienced first hand some of the pleasures and some of the pitfalls of politics.

                I will stick to my hunches, my gut feeling is, every once and a while they strike a nerve. You seem to be a bit defensive about City Attornies, City Management and City Council Members.

                I guess I hit a nerve.

                (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down
      • kinpaso says:

        Did you miss the fact that the agenda shows a starting time of 7:30 for the Thursday night meeting and yet the meeting was adjourned before 7:30. That is illegal in itself.

        (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
        • whatisup says:

          kinpaso – If your allegation is true you have a real story and a Brown Act violation. Report it! Contact Cal Coast News, Tribune, New Times, Paso Robles Press, KRPL, KVEC and whoever I forgot. Also, report the violation to the SLO District Attorney who has to investigate.

          (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. ApathyWillKillYou says:

    As far as I know if any city council acts in improper way to include gross illegal acts like holding secret meetings. (which I am not saying happened in this case)

    There is no city council police, no judge or court to handle the problem.

    You can either go through the hoops for a recall or don’t vote for them next time.

    That’s it… that’s all you can do.

    (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down
    • Sherlock says:

      You have to question the wisdom of those that choose to employ such a firm and the scruples of a person that goes to work there. It begs the question, “How much are our City Leaders being paid? Really, what are the City Managers, public works directors, Development Directors (every management person on Staff for that matter) worth? Most likely grossly over paid. My guess is the City Attorney for Bell must have earned a hefty fee to “look the other way”. Maybe Iris wants a raise. Staff, too. Dump the entire Council and City Staff Management, too.

      (10) 10 Total Votes - 10 up - 0 down
  3. justme says:

    Take these bureaucrats and put them in trade schools to provide a real contribution to society. Of course they want the Bell scam pros on their team. Grab all you can and get off the sinking ship.
    Look, hardly anybody believes in the system anymore, it’s everyman for himself. When things reach this point eventually chaos ensues. You can thank these dirtbags for that. It’ll take the old “villiagers with torches” scenario to combat what’s coming but Americans won’t go there ever, they are stuck behind their flatscreens and monitors looking for answers.
    I often wonder what we look like to the coyotes and such who see us at night through our windows with our perplexed faces bathed in the silver-blue light of our monitors and screens trying to solve our problems. It’s not in those electronic boxes or in religion or education, it’s outside, stupid.
    There is an old saying, “Man is a blight upon the Earth”. Unless we accept that and operate from that premise we are doomed. Govt. dominance by desparate losers is just another step toward a bad end. Gov’t. is made up of the worst of us, they are the cowards who must sell us out to survive. If the 60’s generation who rose up against this sort of thing can fail so miserably when they took over control how can we hope for anything better from the drunken colleges brats who are training for what are basically Govt. and Corp. jobs today? Parents, wiseup, you would be smarter to save your college money, convert it into gold coins and put your kids in the Eagle Scouts or survival training at this point to secure their future. 85% of what colleges are spewing is to secure the faculty’s jobs and man’s demise.
    Don’t pay these fees, licenses, taxes, tuitions, insurances, 401K’s, retirements, interests, permits, unions fees, and all the other crap charges for nothing but the strengthening of the leeches in society until they are held up to the light first.

    (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
  4. Citizen says:

    The City Council had the opportunity to oust the current city attorney, the same city attorney that originally advised them incorrectly on the Nacimiento project. Even Frank Mecham said that the council had received bad legal advice on how the city should proceed with funding this project. Instead, they rehired Iris Yang and her new law firm. I’m sure that they knew the law firm was under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office because they tried to do this in a “private” public meeting. They need to immediately resend this decision. They need a new city attorney (remember this is the same person who probably advised on the Lisa Solomon stolen handgun case) and other shenanigans in city government.

    (18) 22 Total Votes - 20 up - 2 down
    • south says:

      A planning director that SLO was anxious to dump. A police chief that just declared bankruptcy and is a chuckle around town. Now a city attorney associated with Bell. What next guys? Pismo Beach thanks you for taking the heat off.

      (14) 16 Total Votes - 15 up - 1 down
      • Sherlock says:

        The Chief is usually pretty good about putting things away. ( Except guns) You should check her and her posse out some time down at Native in SLO in their private party booth next to Chuck Liddel’s. They really put the stuff away!

        The Council was fed a load of crApp on the Attorney issue, everyone knows Staff decides 99% of everything that happens in this town. That’s why Paso is such a mess. 5 guys without an ounce of brains or a set of b-lls between them. My friends at work keep saying all inteligent life ends as you pass North over the grade, so I guess the planning guy from SLO was a natural. Paso Politics 101……you don’t mess around with Jim!

        (9) 9 Total Votes - 9 up - 0 down
  5. Citizen says:

    The City Council had the opportunity to oust the current city attorney, the same city attorney that originally advised them incorrectly on the Nacimiento project. Even Frank Mecham said that the council had received bad legal advise on how the city should proceed with funding this project. Instead, they rehired Iris Yang and her new law firm. I’m sure that they knew the law firm was under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office because they tried to do this in a “private” public meeting. They need to immediately resend this decision. They need a new city attorney (remember this is the same person who probably advised on the Lisa Solomon stolen handgun case) and other shenanigans in city government.

    (17) 21 Total Votes - 19 up - 2 down
  6. pasoobserver says:

    I hope the citizens of Paso Robles don’t forget in November to cast their VOTES
    to oust Mr. Steinbeck and Mr. Picanco for their ridiculous decisions in approving
    the law firm of Best,Best & Krieger. This law firm represented the City of Bell and is
    under investigation by the California Attorney General office. T

    (30) 36 Total Votes - 33 up - 3 down
    • templetonguy says:

      BBK is a very reputable firm, and in a legal dispute, I would want them on my side. They are not known as a shady firm, but they are known as an expensive one – but worth the price when it is time for litigation.

      (-25) 31 Total Votes - 3 up - 28 down
    • standup says:

      We should start a petition to tops this b.s.

      (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down
      • whatdouno says:

        I am in total agreement, does anyone know if there are measures to be taken against action by public officials without a genuinely announced meeting.

        (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down
        • ApathyWillKillYou says:

          Ask Iris Yang if legal action can be taken for an improperly announced city council meeting.

          (10) 12 Total Votes - 11 up - 1 down
  7. Gsan says:

    The Atascadero City Attorney firm:
    Burke, Williams and Sorensen
    History at Los Osos, however tame compared to Bell.

    (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
    • skucount says:

      Looks like the town of Livingston near Merced just fired these same guys just as Paso was hiring them. Anyone that did business with Bell should be banned. See this quote and link to the story just out hours ago:

      “During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Frank Vierra pointed out that the city’s last attorney was from the same firm that represents Bell, in Southern California, where council members were making $100,000 a year and the city manager’s salary totaled more than $700,000.

      Read more: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2010/08/20/1536608/livingston-councilman-questions.html#ixzz0xIMfmecD

      (17) 19 Total Votes - 18 up - 1 down
  8. whatisup says:

    Whoa! I just read this story and the comments. Everybody take a deep breath. This is old news. The City Attorney’s moving firms has been discussed openly at prior council meetings. Clearly nobody commenting or reporting was at any of those meetings. Next, her new law firm is a partnership of over 200 attorneys. Law firms are not like corporations with a President who dictates policy. The partners of the firm run their own law practices and use the partnership to share expenses.

    The question is, “Is Iris Yang a good attorney for the City of Paso Robles?” Do any of you know anything about her, how long she has been the City’s Attorney, or how she has performed for the City in the past? In addition, I believe John Borst may be part of the Citizens Group that is suing Paso Robles over the Nacimiento Water Project. While I support their suit, I also think there is an obvious reason why he might like her out of the way and this should have been included in the story.

    Also, the meeting was announced as all City Council meetings are announced, right on the City’s website and all people who are on the City’s list, that anybody can join, were notified directly of the meeting. As far as only three members of the public attending the meeting, GET A CLUE! Very few citizens attend City Council, School Board and other such meetings. This is true all over SLO County and the State.

    I do have two questions I would like answered that are not mentioned in the story: 1) Why was the meeting for this decision, while properly announced, held as a “Special” meeting only for this one item? There are legitimate reasons for such meetings, but no reason is given in this story. 2) Was the vote 3-2 or were two council members absent and if they were absent how would they have voted? Possibly 5-0 to retain the long time City Attorney?

    (-15) 27 Total Votes - 6 up - 21 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      Take a deep breath???? Are you kidding? Old news? The article states that her request was on Aug. 13. That was eight days ago!! That is old to you???

      Is she a good attorney? She may very well be but I (as I think others) don’t like the association of the company she is with, seeing everything that has happened in the news with Bell lately.

      (19) 23 Total Votes - 21 up - 2 down
      • whatisup says:

        BeenThereDoneThat – As I said, the people making comments often don’t have a clue. It appears the amount of discussion and preparation by the City to execute this transition was extensive and over a period of time. You make it sound like this was a complete surprise when it wasn’t a surprise at all. The fact that you didn’t know about it may make it a surprise to you, but you aren’t everybody. In addition, I will state again, most of the commenters do not understand how a Law Partnership works – it is nothing like a corporation with a unified business strategy. This story was put out with no investigation of the details. It deserves a follow-up to set the facts straight.

        (-11) 21 Total Votes - 5 up - 16 down
        • standup says:

          I really don’t care how long this has been going on. It is not right and we, the citizens of Paso Robles, deserve better. I, for one, don’t want my city associated with these idiots. 200 bloodsuckers or 200k bloodsuckers, it’s all the same. Any company associated with the fleecing of America should be taken fishing with concrete boots.

          (15) 19 Total Votes - 17 up - 2 down
        • BeenThereDoneThat says:

          First it is a surprise when you read the local news daily from a few different sources and NEVER heard a word. As far as everybody I base that on the fact of people posting here seem to be surprised. Bet if you asked most people in Paso they didn’t know either. If I am reading daily and don’t know, what about a lot of people that don’t even follow the news???

          Second. From your analogy, it is no big deal that she has ties to this company seeing as she is a seperate enity. Well from that reasoning go ask anybody who was invested with Hurst and/or Estate Financial if they would invest with someone who did seperate financial business with them, if they would do business with them now?

          Last you make the claim that this was a long time plan etc. Again in reading the article I see that she asked the city on Aug 13. so where is this extensive and over a period of time that you mentioned??? How do you look at another company a person wants to go with, when they haven’t even asked you yet till the 13th????? You either have inside information you are privey to, or………

          My point (which you continue to have your head in the sand about) is that she may very well be fine and competent but in dealing with a questionable firm you are going to bring deserved scruntiy of your business.

          (7) 13 Total Votes - 10 up - 3 down
    • homework says:

      I would be glad to reply to this well written and thoughtful post.
      First, the resolution adopted stated that the action,”…it would be in the City’s best interests to hjave the same attorneys continue to provide city attorney and related legal services;”
      Second, The previous legal firm of 60 attorneys split into four groups with Iris Yang’s group of 18 contracting, as of September 1, with Best Best & Krieger (BB&K).
      Third, the city secured insurance protection against any claims arising out of legal services prior to placing this item onm an agenda.
      Fourth, the only remaining scheduled Council meeting between the time everything was secured and the termination date of the contract with Iris through McDonough Holland & Allen PC was the special meeting already called for selection of a person to fill a vacancy on the Paso Robles Housing Authority, set for Thursday, August 19, at 7 p.m. in the large conference room upstairs at the Library/City Hall.
      Fifth, Edward Lee was Bell’s City Attorney before joing the firm of BB&K and brought that city’s contract with him to the firm where he became a partner. He also represented other cities.
      Sixth, when the controversy broke regarding the voted on Charter Amendment approving very high salaries and benefits for Bell’s city officials, one of Lee’s other cities, Downey, termininated his contract.
      Seventh, Shiortly thereafter, on August 2, Lee resigned from the firm of BB&K and that night another attorney from BB&K so informed the City of Maywood which had also been one of his clients.
      Eighth, Iris Yang and her group will not join the firm, continiing without Mr. Lee, until September 1.
      Ninth, John Hamon was out of the area, with prvious notification to the Council of absence, on August 19th.
      Tenth, Fred Strong was present and abstained because he had received the addendum before the Tuesday meeting and thought he had already voted for this in the consent agenda that night, as he couldn’t confirm that the two items were identical he chose to abstain rather than vote on something he wasn’t sure he’d reviewed, or done his homework on.
      Eleventh, The vote was 3 in favor, one abstention and one absent. There was only one member of the public present when the action was taken. Mr. Borst arrived late and presented a letter to the Mayor after the meeting was adjourned. No public testimony was given during the time when it was asked for during consideration of the matter.
      During the staff report the Council present was informed that if the resolution was approved an “evergreen” contract would be negotiated with BB&K after September 1 to insure that Paso Robles is represented by Iris Yang and would come back to the City Council for approval.
      Those are the facts the story SHOULD have included.

      (-5) 19 Total Votes - 7 up - 12 down

Comments are closed.