New city attorney is well-versed in local issues

DOWNEY - High hopes and expectations have greeted Yvette Abich Garcia's appointment as the new city attorney effective Dec. 27. She will replace interim city attorney Charles Vose.Outgoing mayor Anne Bayer cited her extensive experience as counsel to municipal governments, joint powers authorities, and land as well as conflict of interest issues. "These are tremendous assets to the city," she was quoted as saying, and contributing factors that led to her unanimous confirmation by the City Council in closed session. Other practice areas in her resume include: planning, employment law and Brown Act. City Manager Gerald Caton also was quoted as saying, "Her extensive knowledge of local issues and priorities will contribute immediately to the important initiatives Downey is currently pursuing." He also said later that she can channel her expertise and energies to city planning issues and personnel matters, two items that need addressing. "I think it will be a good fit," Caton said. For her part, Garcia, whose middle name Abich, she says, has Lebanese roots, was quoted in her brief remarks at the city council session afterwards: "This is an important position and a position I don't take lightly. I look forward to serving the Downey community." Otherwise, Garcia says, "My father is Cuban, while my mother is Nicaraguan." She competed with more than two dozen other candidates for the job, according to Caton. "Her skills set can be immediately brought to bear on the city's redevelopment plans such as Tierra Luna," he said. Her compensation will be $173,000 per annum, plus an estimated additional 35 percent in benefits (vacation, etc.) according to the pro-forma calculation of executive management compensation plans in accordance with standard job classification formulas for such positions. Garcia says her decision to pursue a role in Downey city administration was prompted more by the challenges she envisioned for the job than the usual potentially greater monetary rewards found in private practice. She also said the size of the city influenced her, saying, "I can help the city grow and I will be immediately useful in the areas of city planning and labor employment." Caton said the city is currently seriously addressing the Tierra Luna redevelopment project at the site of the Downey Studios. "I will work very hard on this," Garcia said. Born in Los Angeles and growing up in the city of San Gabriel, Garcia obtained her BA from Loyola Marymount University in 1990 and earned her law degree from Loyola Law School in 1994. She currently serves on the executive board of the Public Law Section of the California State Bar, her appointment by the State Bar Board coming in 2009. She has been recognized for her accomplishments in the legal profession, named as a "Southern California Rising Star" in the area of municipal law in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. She says even now she maintains close ties with Loyola through her work as a member of the board of the Mexican American Alumni Association of Loyola Marymount University, raising scholarship money to assist university students. She also confirmed that her contacts with councilman Mario Guerra and former council member Kirk Cartozian began with her work as legal counsel to the Orangeline Development Authority, a job she also currently holds. Especially after the Bell scandal first broke our circa July, Caton was convinced that an in-house arrangement was more favorable vs. an outside type of legal counsel, reasoning that, given a similar salary/compensation range, the in-house arrangement allows for "more service hours and, no less important, more direction and control from day-to-day." Garcia is currently serving out her role as senior counsel for Los Angeles-based Colantuono & Levin and is concurrently the city attorney and redevelopment agency counsel for the city of Barstow. She has previously served the cities of Bell Gardens, Calabasas, Commerce, Huntington Park, Maywood and Sierra Madre.

********** Published: December 2, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 33