Newport's former city attorney working for city again

NEWPORT BEACH — Less than a month after his departure as city attorney, David Hunt will be working again on the city's legal issues.

The City Council approved a contract Tuesday with Hunt's new employer, Irvine-based Friedman Stroffe & Gerard.

After a rocky 2.5-year tenure, Hunt left the city in June amid heightened scrutiny over his office's escalating budget. Current City Attorney Aaron Harp said he is looking for assistance during that transition.

Some of the city's litigation is highly specialized — such as its fights with group rehabilitation home operators — and Hunt directed the city's representation.

"He has inside knowledge on cases," Harp said before the council meeting.

While the agreement says that Hunt could advise the city on new issues as well, Harp said he hasn't decided what else, if anything, the new firm should handle. Friedman Stroffe & Gerard is a business law firm, unlike some firms that specialize in public law.

The contract caps the firm's work at $25,000, with an hourly advisement rate of $295 for Hunt. It specifies that Hunt supervise all city issues.

That hourly rate is lower than what most senior partners charge, Harp said. That was by design. Hunt said his typical public sector rate is $315, but he gave his old employer a deal.

"I've got a long-term relationship with them, and want to be able to continue that," Hunt said before the meeting.

Not all council members endorsed the agreement. Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who has long criticized Hunt's fiscal restraint, dissented. She pointed out that Harp could decide to amend the contract and expand Hunt's role without the council's approval.

"It's not my intention to hire back our former city attorney," Daigle said. "I just really can't support this."

The City Council is required to approve contracts with businesses that employ people who worked for the city within the past five years.

Before working for Newport, Hunt was the city attorney for towns along California's Central Coast.

Twitter: @mreicher

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