Santa Monica Lookout
|Lawrence Picked as Santa Monica Interim City Attorney||
By Jonathan Friedman
December 9, 2016 -- While the City Council searches for the first new head of Santa Monica’s legal department in more than 20 years, longtime Assistant City Attorney Joseph Lawrence will fill that role on an interim basis beginning December 31.
Mayor Tony Vazquez announced Tuesday evening that the decision had been made during the closed session portion of the council meeting. He offered a congratulations to Lawrence, who responded with a joke.
"In terms of congratulations, as I said to somebody, ‘congratulations you're on the lead boat on D-Day,'" said Lawrence, who received a room full of laughter.
He added, "Obviously these are challenging times, and they've been challenging times for a number of months, a number of years. For however long I serve in this position, I promise I'll give you my absolute best legal advice, and I can absolutely guarantee you that the legal staff will likewise do the same."
This is actually a return to an old role for Lawrence.
He filled the position then known as acting city attorney beginning in 1992 after the council fired Robert Myers because he refused to draft and enforce laws intended to tackle local homeless issues.
The Los Angeles Times reported in 1993 that Lawrence was one of the candidates to become Myers' official successor during the council's lengthy process to find a new city attorney.
That job was eventually awarded to Marsha Moutrie, who began working in January 1994 and has continued in the position ever since. She announced in September that she would retire at the end of the year.
The Times reported in a December 1993 article on Moutrie’s hiring that Lawrence had been a "strong contender" for the job, but "carried the pluses and minuses" of having been Myers' second in command.
"Though he was a known quantity who could be trusted to staunchly defend rent control, Lawrence was also widely perceived to be too close to Myers to strike a new course sought by the council," The Times wrote.
Moutrie wrote in a September statement that she was retiring so she could spend more time with her recently retired husband "while we can still explore [the world] on foot" and with her mother who is "elderly and bedridden" ("Santa Monica City Attorney Announces Retirement," September 26, 2016).
There is no word whether Lawrence is again a contender for the open job.
The council has scheduled a recognition for Moutrie at her last meeting this coming Tuesday. It will finalize a contract with Lawrence for his interim job at the first meeting in January.
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