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Joe Lawrence to Serve Third Stint as Interim City Attorney

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By Jorge Casuso

September 24, 2021 -- Joe Lawrence -- who served twice as interim City Attorney during his quarter century at City Hall -- will return to the post October 1.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to appoint Lawrence after negotiations were completed on a contract that will pay him an hourly rate of $130.82, the equivalent of an annual salary of $272,112, according to City staff.

Lawrence will replace Interim City Attorney George Cardona, who last month was named chief trial counsel by the California Bar Association, after heading the City's legal department since April 2020 ("Interm City Attorney Cardona Hired by California Bar," August 27, 2021).

Lawrence will hold the post "until the completion of the pending recruitment for a permanent City Attorney," staff said in its report to the Council.

As a retired annuitant, Lawrence will receive no additional benefits under California law, which allows a retired person to "serve without reinstatement from retirement or loss or interruption of benefits."

A longtime assistant City Attorney, Lawrence last held the top post on an interim basis when former City Attorney Marsha Moutrie retired in December 2016 ("Santa Monica City Attorney Announces Retirement," September 26, 2016).

He ran the office until Lane Dilg assumed the position on a permanent basis in August 2017 after a nationwide search ("Senior Counsel to UCLA Named Santa Monica City Attorney," June 27, 2017).

During his tenure as Interim City Attorney, Lawrence handled the landmark agreement to close Santa Monica Airport (“City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028,” January 28, 2017).

He first filled the position then known as acting city attorney beginning in 1992 after the council fired Robert Myers because he refused to draft and enforce laws intended to tackle local homeless issues.

That job was eventually awarded to Moutrie, who began working in January 1994 and served 22 years as City Attorney.

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