Chris Diaz is no longer on the payroll as Los Altos city attorney after the city opted not to renew his contract for the coming year.
Diaz, an attorney with Best Best & Krieger LLC, was hired to represent the city in 2017. The city will still employ Best Best & Krieger to address ongoing litigation attorneys have invested their time in, but according to Los Altos City Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins, Diaz has officially made his exit, as his role is not to litigate, but to advise on municipal law.
Diaz proposed that Best Best & Krieger continue to represent the city during the search for his successor, but the city did not take him up on the offer, Bruins said, adding that the proposition “spoke extremely well” of Diaz and his firm.
“If you put all the pieces together – look at how many lawsuits we have,” Bruins said, referring to at least seven lawsuits filed against the city that were discussed in a closed council session Jan. 14.
The city council in September appointed Bruins and Councilwoman Neysa Fligor to serve on a subcommittee charged with exploring options for other counsel. They reached out to a variety of law firms for proposals on how they could serve the city.
“It is challenging. … We are trying to figure out what attributes we are looking for,” Bruins said. “What, uniquely, could they bring to the table? How could they meet our unique needs?”
Jolie Houston, former city attorney, will serve in the role until Diaz’s replacement is named.
Although the subcommittee concluded its search in December – Bruins said she was “pleased” with the number of proposals the city received in response to their inquiry – the city selected Houston to serve in the interim because of her familiarity with the city’s operations and her continued work on its litigation, which included the purchase of 999 Fremont Ave., a transaction completed last week.
Bruins said the city is in negotiations with a candidate they have selected to replace Diaz, with the goal to have the council approve the contract at its first regular meeting in February.
Until Diaz’s tenure, Bruins said the city employed smaller or boutique law firms to represent the city. She did not indicate whether the new city attorney would be from a smaller firm like Houston’s Berliner Cohen or a larger firm like Diaz’s Best Best & Krieger.
“When the contract comes out in February, you will see what strategy we are taking,” she said.