New Palo Alto city attorney pledges 'transparency'

Molly Stump plans to improve her office's website, make more legal documents available to the public

Palo Alto's new city attorney passed her first test Monday night -- she sat through a four-hour debate on composting technologies and emerged not just awake but downright impressed.

"The work you did tonight was amazing and it was wonderful to observe it," newly hired City Attorney Molly Stump told the City Council after hearing comments from dozens of residents and a lengthy council discussion. "It illustrated everything that makes me excited to join your team."

Stump, who will officially begin her duties on April 18, attended the meeting as a spectator and received an ovation and welcome from the council. Mayor Sid Espinosa told Stump that the council very much looks forward to working with her and assured her that "this place will never get boring." City Manager James Keene said city staff is "excited" about her joining the team.

The council also voted unanimously to approve her contract, which includes a base salary of $208,375.

Stump told the council that one of her main priorities will be transparency. She said she wants to change the City Attorney's website to make more documents available to the public. She said she believes in "open government" and public participation.

"There's a lot of information about the city's legal programs that can be made available to the public and it's important to me that it be done quickly and expeditiously so that people can participate," Stump said.

Stump, who serves as general counsel to San Francisco Airport and who had previously spent 15 years in San Francisco's city attorney's office, also said she is committed to providing "excellent customer service" and making her office "a great place to work." This includes making people in her office feel like their careers are nurtured.

"I want both attorneys and staff to be inspired to bring their best effort to work every day," Stump said.

The approval of her contract immediately followed a lengthy debate over the city's composting options. Dozens of speakers provided feedback to the council about the preliminary results of a feasibility study evaluating the costs of building an anaerobic-digestion facility on a nine-acre site in Byxbee Park.

After hearing the complex discussion and the thorough presentation from Public Works staff, Stump acknowledged that she'll face "stiff competition" from other City Hall departments in her quest to distinguish her office for "excellent work product" and "excellent customer service."

Stump will succeed Gary Baum, who retired last October. She was chosen earlier this month from a pool of five finalists.

"I'm sure I'll be challenged every day and I look forward to that," Stump said. "I can't wait to get started."

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2 people like this
Posted by Can-Transparent-Can-A-City-Attorney-Be?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm

> Transparency ..

Yeah .. she'll be transparent, all right, until the next scandal comes along and she joins ranks with those responsible for the problems ..

2 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Maybe Ms. Stump will convince the police advisory committee to open their meetings to the public.

Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Quote from the article: "She said she wants to change the City Attorney's website to make more documents available to the public."

Good idea - yes, and I hope she does it early-on. That way she will get an object lesson on how the City really works. Yes, please take that idea to the City computer people and the staff the former City Attorney has left behind. The ones who brought us the $25 million Enron payoff and the $250K failed website.

Best that she learn the true nature of the beast up-front.

I wish her luck.

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:38 am

"...base salary of $208,375."

Plus overtime, of course.

Like this comment
Posted by OY!
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 23, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Welcome to the center of dysfunctional government organizations. How do you accomplish transparency when senior management refuses to release information or outright covers up scandals. Many senior management employees have sold out for less than a $200,000 salary + benefits so will be interesting to see when Ms Stump falls in line with current management philosophy. Oh well, got a starting salary of 208,400 + benefits, how nice.

2 people like this
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Mar 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm

If the new City Attorney says she is going to practice transparency and then doesn't do it, she will fit in well with the existing culture in City Hall.

Jim Keene is the first City Manager to hide from the public the titles of vacancies the City is seeking to fill. Even Frank Benest disclosed those vacancies.

Job vacancies for which only internal candidates were eligible were first removed from the public web site while the City was negotiating with the unionized employees, shortly before the City imposed a new contract on those employees.

The public and the Council are entitled to know both the titles of jobs that are vacant and the titles of which ones the City is attempting to fill.

The job recruitment brochure for Library Director was hidden by providing a link from the City's public web site to the City's internal web site that the public is prohibited from accessing.

Now the Jobs link from the Know Zone on the web site goes nowhere.

But, City Hall believes in transparency.

Like this comment
Posted by Andrew William Morrow
a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2011 at 3:53 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Watchdog Ear
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2016 at 8:39 pm

Mary Stump is full of it, she is about transparent as Hillary Clinton. I sent her a complaint letter back in 2015 about a contract employee named Lance Bayer the Administrative Hearing Officer. This guy is so unprofessional and bias. His written decisions are something a first grader could write. Stump never had the courtesy to respond to my complaint letter. She probably cover-up for this guy.

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

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