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Quan Questions Need for Elected City Attorney

Oakland's new mayor has been clashing with current city counsel John Russo

Oakland should consider scrapping the position of elected city attorney if current officeholder John Russo resigns, Mayor Jean Quan said Thursday.

Quan and Russo have clashed repeatedly over issues ranging from a proposal to regulate industrial marijuana growing operations to a new gang injunction for Fruitvale.

Earlier this week, The Bay Citizen reported Russo is considering resigning, citing multiple sources close to him. 

Yesterday, the East Bay Express confirmed that Russo may not finish his term.

"I've been thinking that this may not be a good fit," Russo told the Express. "There's no question that I've been giving a lot of thought to my future."

When asked for her thoughts on a possible resignation, Quan initially shrugged and said, “no thoughts.”

Asked who she thought would be a suitable replacement should Russo resign, Quan told reporters: “We should look at whether we should have an elected city attorney at all.”

“We need to ask whether they are a third branch of government, or are they attorneys for the city,” she said.

Quan complained that Russo has repeatedly breached attorney-client privilege by going public with his opposition to laws – sometimes before they are even drawn up.

“It makes it really hard to do anything, and he says we can’t ask anyone else for advice on top of that,” she said.

Quan groused that she “can’t even get briefed” on the gang injunction.

Most large California cities, including San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, elect their city attorneys, while the mayor and city council in smaller cities typically hire the municipal legal counsel.

Russo currently earns a salary of $200,000, while Quan took a 25 percent pay cut when elected mayor and now earns $137,000.

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