Almanac

News - April 27, 2011

Conners takes over as Atherton attorney

by Renee Batti

William B. Conners wasted no time before climbing into his new saddle — a seat on the Atherton City Council dais — after the council unanimously confirmed his appointment as the new town attorney.

In a closed-session meeting just before the regular April 20 council meeting, the council approved a contract with Mr. Conners, a Pebble Beach resident and former Monterey city attorney, to provide legal services. Mr. Conners then took his seat between Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen and Interim City Manager John Danielson for the regular meeting.

Among the public attendees in the audience that night, seated in the front row, was the new assistant town attorney, Jennifer Conners Larson — Mr. Conners' daughter, who is an attorney specializing in litigation.

Under terms of the town's contract with Mr. Conners, the new attorney will be paid a fixed monthly retainer of $9,800, which will cover fees for his standard services and for "other members of his legal team" in delivering agreed-upon services. Those include attendance at City Council and Planning Commission meetings, and meetings of "other bodies as requested"; weekly office hours in Town Hall; preparation of ordinances, resolutions and other legal documents; and preparation of legal opinions requested by the town.

The contract notes that the new attorney "expects that virtually all costs he expects to incur in providing legal services to the town will be included in his retainer." But if additional services outside of those agreed to in the retainer are required, he will be paid $175 an hour to provide them.

Mr. Conners' first performance evaluation will take place six months after his hiring, under terms of the contract, and every year thereafter.

Monterey's assistant city attorney for 10 years before holding the top attorney's post for that city for about 15 years, Mr. Conners was one of three top candidates recommended for the post by a town citizen advisory committee and an ad-hoc committee made up of council members Elizabeth Lewis and Jerry Carlson. The other two finalists were larger law firms. Mr. Conners has been the sole practitioner in his firm, William B. Conners Municipal Law Consultant, for the last six years.

In an earlier interview with the Almanac, he said he was able to offer his services to Atherton for a lower cost than competing applicants could.

"I can do the job expertly, but not as expensively as a large firm," he said. "I don't have to pay junior attorneys. ... It's much more efficient doing the work myself — it eliminates a whole lot of middle men."

Mr. Conners replaces Wynne Furth of the Burke Williams and Sorensen law firm, which also applied for the position. When Ms. Furth was hired by the town in February 2009, she worked for McDonough Holland & Allen, with offices in Sacramento and Oakland. When that firm announced last year that it was closing, the council decided to use the opportunity to bid for legal services, employing Ms. Furth on a month-by-month contract since last summer.

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