Palo Alto City Attorney Gary Baum will retire in October to pursue a career in private practice and spend more time on pro bono work, the city announced Thursday morning.
Baum, who became the city's chief legal adviser in July 2004, will step down on Oct. 31, the city announced. In recent years, Baum has won multiple awards for his pro bono work on behalf of victims of domestic violence.
But he has also faced occasional criticism from several members of the City Council, most notably Mayor Pat Burt, Councilman Larry Klein and, recently, Greg Scharff.
The city attorney is one of four positions appointed by the council, along with city manager, city clerk and city auditor.
"I have been honored to serve as Palo Alto's City Attorney and am proud of the work that my staff and I have done on behalf of the City over these past 6 years," Baum said in a statement.
"My tenure has been an incredible opportunity for me to serve the City and its residents; however, now I'm ready to pursue my interest in tackling municipal law in a different format, either by joining a law firm or starting my own practice."
He said he was particularly proud of the staff he has assembled and that he is "pleased to leave on a high note, knowing that the City Attorney's office is left in the capable hands of this professional staff."
In the announcement, Baum is credited with cutting costs, assembling a capable legal staff and assisting the city in resolving "many legal problems." City Manager James Keene called Baum a "dedicated public servant" and said the city's leadership "wishes him the best in the next phase of his career."
Burt also praised him: "Gary has been committed to minimizing legal risks to the City and he is regarded highly by his peers," Burt said in the statement.
Baum's recent awards include the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year award from the Santa Clara County Bar Association in 2007 and
the Access to Justice Award from the Pro Bono Project in 2009.
Klein, as chair of the council's Council Appointed Officers (CAO) committee, said the matter of seeking a new attorney will be agendized for the full council either on July 12 or July 19 for authorization to hire a "headhunter" consulting firm to generate applicants.
But the schedule will be extremely tight, he said. He said a headhunter firm is likely to be chosen by fall. A list of semi-finalists would then be presented to the council, which would select two or three finalists for interviews and background checks.
He said it will be up to the council whether the names of finalists are made public, an approach he favors. Klein said he doubted a new attorney could be named by Baum's Oct. 31 retirement date, but he expects one could be named soon after, possibly in November and almost certainly by the end of the year.