John L. Fellows III will be replaced as the city's attorney effective next month, although City Manager Paul O. Brady Jr. denied reports that Fellows was fired.
Joel D. Kuperberg, 38, who is currently La Palma city attorney, will replace Fellows. Like Fellows, he is a partner in the Costa Mesa firm of Rutan & Tucker. The city of Irvine has retained Rutan & Tucker to handle its legal affairs since the city's incorporation in 1971.
Fellows took over as city attorney in August, 1990, when former City Attorney Roger A. Grable said he no longer wanted to practice municipal law. Fellows had served as assistant city attorney under Grable.
Brady said his decision to replace Fellows after less than two years on the job had nothing to do with Fellows' professional abilities.
"It has nothing to do with John Fellows or his competence," Brady said. "He's a good attorney. . . . I felt it was time we make a change in the city attorney and this was something that was mutually agreed upon" with Rutan & Tucker.
Fellows would not comment on the matter and referred all questions to Brady. However, Fellows had stated in past interviews that he enjoyed his position as city attorney.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Paula Werner said the debate over whether to replace Fellows had been the topic of several recent closed-door meetings between Brady and the City Council. Werner said she opposed Brady's desire to replace Fellows.
"I was on the losing end of that decision, obviously," Werner said.
Werner described Fellows as a competent city attorney and said she was satisfied with his legal representation of the city.