Palo Alto City Attorney Gary Baum to retire

Baum to step down in October to go inton private practice, do more pro bono work

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2010 at 11:55 am

The City Attorney's job is the most difficult one in city government.

Palo Alto's City Attorney is the attorney for both the City Council and the City Manager, plus all the employees who report to the City Manager.

The City Attorney has an ethical and professional obligation to represent his clients to the best of his ability.

Sometimes, a City Attorney is not a good fit for a new City Manager, and it is always the City Attorney who leaves instead of the City Manager.

Less than two years after City Manager Bill Zaner was hired, City Attorney Roy Abrams was asked to leave by the City Council (when Larry Klein was previously on the Council).

Four years after City Manager Frank Benest was hired, City Attorney Ariel Pierre Calonne left Palo Alto.

And now, two years after City Manager Jim Keene was hired, City Attorney Gary Baum will be leaving in the face of criticism from Mayor Burt and the two attorneys on the City Council, Larry Klein and Greg Scharff.

Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Why will it take until early fall to choose a headhunter firm? And how much are we going to pay for finding that firm--let alone for it to form a list of viable applicants?

In other words, are we going to pay (1) a consultant to find a headhunting firm AND (2)that consulting firm to find viable applicants??

Like this comment
Posted by Frugal
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Let me offer a candidate. Bill McClure, City Attorney of Menlo Park.

Menlo Park could use from fresh blood too.

Like this comment
Posted by bill
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm

what is his retirement package- salary & medical benefits- that the City pays him for the rest of his life? Why is this not covered when reporting a departure from the City?

Like this comment
Posted by Ralph
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Not long ago there were titanic three-way power struggles involving Frank Benest, Emily Harrison, and Gary Baum. Soon none of them will be left at Palo Alto City Hall. Bureaucratic turf wars are a huge waste of energy.

Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Thank you Larry Klein!

We know you've been working to oust Baum since:

25 million Enron payoff

Baum's role in the Childrens Theater witch hunt

335 thousand harassment settlement to a direct subordinate

Revenge-driven disclosure of the Emily Harrison harassment investigation, while at the same time saying there was only an "oral report" regarding the harassment investigation of a crony department head; thus no disclosure

Baum's tenure is just over 5 years, so he's vested for City paid health care for the rest of his life. The October termination date isn't surprising. He will be out before Jan 1, 2011 as will HR Director Carlsen. If either stayed beyond Jan 1 they would have to pay for some of their retirement health care.

Baum did acomplish one thing that is stated indirectly in the article. He systematically forced out 90% of the City Attorney staff, replacing them with sycophants and cronies. Really talented people, like Donald Larkin who can't even win a case against Victor Frost!

Suggestion. Don't hire a new attorney immediately. Hire a consultant/hatchet man to clean the garbage out of the Attorney's office first. If you don't and retain Baum's staff, nothing will change.

Like this comment
Posted by Clear 'Em Out
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm

HR Director Russ Carlson's departure is long overdue. He will be the next one out the door.

Like this comment
Posted by Curious
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2010 at 7:34 am

The list goes on! I think there is a lot of truth to all of the above. Like the saying goes, "what comes around goes around" and it has pretty much happened and there is more to come. With the layoffs and health care change going through on 1/1/2011,there are many changes at City Hall. Is it true that new hires with be back at 2% at 60 with how many years of service?

Like this comment
Posted by Inside observer
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 2, 2010 at 8:03 am

The fact that Baum has been criticized by the likes of Burt, Scharff and Klein is a positive for him. Our city council is always looking for scapegoats for their incompetence and baum was an easy target.
Also do not forget that Klein interfered with the PACT investigation and was highly critical of Baum. I wonder if this is a personal vendetta by Klein.

Like this comment
Posted by Ralph
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2010 at 8:04 am

Carlsen was a fired former SoCal CM then a political aide up in King County Washington brought in to do the dirty work and be a yes man to the Palo Alto CM.

Like this comment
Posted by PAPD-Critic
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Will some one please out line any and all of the positive accomplishment attributed to Mr. Baum as head of the legal department.

Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2010 at 10:38 am

In 2009 Baum's regular salary was $239,382. Larkin's was $133,730.

Some of Larkin's quotes in the Victor Frost case are truly astonishing:

- Assistant City Attorney Donald Larkin, who was trying the first case of his career, said he didn’t anticipate the extent to which the case would hinge on technicalities …

In retrospect, Larkin said he should have devoted more time to convincing the jury that the 50-foot exception in the sit-lie law did not apply in Frost’s case.
(Daily News, 4-24-10)

- Larkin said there were a few things he could have done differently. "I didn't anticipate a defense that a milk crate is a wheelchair and I didn't anticipate that it would have any resonance with the jury," he said. Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Thank goodness there were finally enough City Council members with the sense/integrity/skill to recognize the City's lead counsel for the incompetent he has been, and spare the City further expense from his bad advice, lawyering and management decisions. That this took 6 years is inexplicable. A share of the responsibility no doubt rests with the non-critical, non-investigative local newspapers.

Like this comment
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2010 at 12:10 pm

It took six years for Baum to leave for the same reason it took eight years for Benest to leave. The Council waited until all the Council Members who hired him had left the Council.

Like this comment
Posted by Clean Sweep
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Nxxt departments that are overdue to be cleaned out are HR and Public Works.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Did Baum play any role in the CA trees fiasco. Seems as liability concerns were at the heart and soul of the case to cut down the % of trees that they could not call "diseased".

Like this comment
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2010 at 1:35 pm

"Nxxt departments that are overdue to be cleaned out are HR and Public Works.", Posted by Clean Sweep, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood.


The Daily Post has twice reported that Human Resources Director Russ Carlsen is retiring at the end of this calendar year. That will give the City Manager the opportunity to eliminate HR as a separate department and make it part of the Department of Administrative Services or the City Manager's Office, or simply outsource it, which has already been done with listings of job vacancies.

Cleaning out the Public Works Department will expose which of that department's problems are the result of the department leadership and which are the result of the department attempting to implement misguided policy decisions of the City Council majority and the City Manager.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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