By Janene Scully,
Noozhawk North County Editor
Solvang City Attorney Chip Wullbrandt has resigned days ahead of the expected termination of his contract.
Wullbrandt reportedly submitted his resignation late last week, ending his gig as city attorney days before Monday’s special meeting of the Solvang City Council. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Monday.
That meeting, called by new Mayor Charlie Uhrig at the end of Dec. 14 meeting, has two items set to be discussed in closed session as allowed by the Ralph M. Brown (Open Meetings) Act.
The first item identifies public employee discipline, dismissal or release of the city attorney.
A second item involves public employee appointment and identifies the position as the city attorney.
After meeting behind closed doors, the council is set to return to open session to possibly approve the city attorney contract and direct City Manager Xenia Bradford to execute the new deal.
Neither Wullbrandt nor Bradford would release Wullbrandt’s resignation letter, and Uhrig did not respond to a query about the matter Saturday night.
Wullbrandt, from the Santa Barbara-based firm of Price, Postel & Parma LLC, has spent 18 months as Solvang’s city attorney.
“I was essentially recruited by the former mayor, Ryan Toussaint, in mid-2019. I really liked his and the City Council’s vision for Solvang, and very much enjoyed working with and for the former City Council,” Wullbrandt told Noozhawk in a written statement.
He said the former council had “big goals and a very active agenda.”
“I worked many hours beyond what I billed, and we got a lot accomplished. At PP&P, we pride ourselves on doing a thorough and professional job for our clients. We are not cut-rate or cheap, but we are efficient and effective,” he said.
Solvang, like other jurisdictions, has experienced challenges because of the COVID-19 restrictions, which severely affected tourism industry. During the time, Wullbrandt contends, PPP “served the city well in response to the numerous challenges it faced.”
“The new mayor and at least some of the new council want to go in a different direction from the former council, and it makes sense that they have the ability to work with counsel of their own choosing. We wish the city the best.”
Wullbrandt was named interim city attorney after the former legal counsel resigned in May 2019. Although his hourly rate exceeded others who submitted proposals to serve the city, the council hired Wullbrandt as the permanent city attorney.
He quickly racked up a tally that far exceeded the former attorney’s annual rate of approximately $100,000. From July through November, Wullbrandt has submitted invoices seeking payment amounting $159,905.
At some point last year amid concerns about his high costs, Wullbrandt included a “courtesy discount” on invoices.
For instance, an invoice on the August agenda and dated July 30 cited $49,181 as the total, but included a courtesy discount of $13,717, putting the price at $35,421.
An invoice dated June 30 added up to $61,869, but was trimmed by $34,717 with the courtesy discount, so the payment sought amounted to $27,152.
For the first nine months of the prior fiscal year, his payments topped $500,000.
Wullbrandt also was more involved than most city attorneys, such as riding in the 2019 Julefest Parade with City Council members.
He often touted the fact that since he was local, the city did not pay for travel to meetings.
With Wullbrandt as legal counsel, Solvang has been accused of violating state law on open meetings, forcing the panel to rescind the improper actions.
“The City Council majority is entitled to and should be served by a city attorney whose ethical standards and commitment to the rule of law more closely match their own,” Fleishman said in a written statement.
Since then, Hanley has retired and Fleishman has joined the firm of Richards Watson & Gershon, which has a San Luis Obispo office.
Fleishman serves as the contract city attorney for Pismo Beach.