There’s been quite a lot of drama in Laguna Niguel in regards to the city attorney the past few years. Over a year ago we confronted a LN city attorney for denying that the city had hired an engineering company legally connected to another company which supplied prostitutes to troops on an Air Force base in Iraq. That attorney was let go by the city.
The next city attorney was disliked by city council members Jennings, Oddo and Gennawey (Gennawey is an assistant district attorney for Todd Spitzer and Jennings is married to John Mark Jennings, an attorney and former Mayor of Laguna Niguel). Gennawey and Oddo sought to remove Chris Neumeyer from the city attorney position as soon as they got into office. Text messages received indicated they were unhappy with Chris as soon as they arrived on the city council. FOIA requested text messages revealed their displeasure with Neumeyer, who himself was a new attorney to Laguna Niguel.
The city attorney issue came to a head last month when Council Member Sandy Rains expressed concerns for a replacement firms lack of documentation on how to deal with potential conflicts of interest. Mayor Jennings accused Council Member Sandy Rains of ‘not knowing what conflict of interest means’. Jennings then stated she saw no problem with the applicant firm, Best Best and Krieger (BB&K). Jennings, Gennawey and Oddo then voted for the BB&K to provide city attorney services to Laguna Niguel. All 3 of the yes voting council members expressed the utmost confidence in BB&K and lauded the firms ‘experience’.
“Corruption on Steroids”
Cursory research into BB&K reveals just what kind of experience the firm has. In a shocking twist, we discovered that BB&K was the law firm that oversaw the city of Bell during one of the most notorious city scandals in California history. In 2014, 5 city leaders were convicted in a municipal fraud scandal that rocked the nation. BB&K paid 2.5 million to the city as part of a settlement in a lawsuit.
As stated by CBSNews Los Angeles: In their lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the five accused the firm Best, Best & Krieger and one of its former partners, Edward W. Lee, of failing to “exercise proper care and skill” when it came to advising them on such legal matters as forming the recycling board and several other municipal agencies from which they collected salaries.
“None of them are attorneys or accountants, so they relied on their legal adviser, who was Mr. Lee and his law firm,” said attorney Stanley L. Friedman, who represents former Mayor Oscar Hernandez.
In 2013, Best, Best & Krieger paid the city of Bell $2.5 million to settle a similar lawsuit.
Free Laguna has submitted a request to Laguna Niguel City Hall for any background research conducted by the city in its city attorney vetting process.
The City of Bell scandal was the largest prosecuted local government scandal in the history of the state of California.