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Santa Monica Hires Fresno City Attorney

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By Jorge Casuso

May 11, 2022 -- Doug Sloan -- an avid cyclist and veteran lawyer who argued a landmark free-speech case before entering public service -- will be Santa Monica's new City Attorney.

Two years after embarking on a search to fill the City's top legal post, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Sloan, who has served as Fresno's City Attorney since 2013.

Sloan will assume the post on June 6, replacing Susan Cola, the third person to fill the position on an interim basis since April 2020.

City Attorney Douglas Sloan

Under the five-year contract approved by the Council, Sloan will earn a starting salary of $320,136.

That makes him the second highest wage earner in the City, after City Manager David White, who earns $340,000 a year.

“Doug's extensive experience leading Fresno on wide-ranging important legal matters and his familiarity with municipal operations make him an ideal candidate for Santa Monica’s next City Attorney,” said Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich.

(Doug Sloan, photo courtesy City of Santa Monica)

“I look forward to Doug joining all of us on the City Council and our City leadership on the dais in June,” Himmelrich said in a statement.

As City Attorney, Sloan will head a department of 44 employees with a budget of $11.8 million.

Sloan, who has been practicing law for 34 years, has extensive experience handling planning and real estate issues, City officials said.

During his six years as Fresno's Assistant City Attorney, he led the Economic Development and Finance unit, which covered real estate, large complex transactions, eminent domain, code enforcement and redevelopment.

As Fresno's City Attorney, he oversees 28 in-house lawyers and an office totaling more than 148 employees, including Code Compliance.

He manages a budget of $20 million, and outside counsel costs of approximately $4 million per year.

Sloan's departure made headlines in Fresno, which has a population of 540,000, nearly six times the size of Santa Monica's.

“I have loved my 16 years here at the Fresno City Attorney’s Office, especially the wonderful group of people in the office who have become lifelong friends,” Sloan said in a City of Fresno news release issued Wednesday.

“The decision to leave has been very difficult, but Santa Monica is an incredible opportunity that I really look forward to.”

In a statement from the City of Santa Monica, Sloan said, “I appreciate the support and confidence of the Council and other City officials.

“We have spent a lot of time talking in addition to the formal process, and it is clear to me that the Council is dedicated to serving this extraordinary community, and I look forward to being an integral part of that by helping with Santa Monica's complex legal issues.”

Before entering the public sector, Sloan served as lead trial and appellate counsel in the landmark case Affordable Housing Development Corporation v. City of Fresno.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in the City's favor, finding that a community advisory committee member's speech criticizing the for-profit corporation was protected by the First Amendment.

The committee member, Travis Compton, had opposed recommending bond funding for a proposed low-income housing project, according to press reports.

"AHDC v. Fresno was one of the first cases in the nation to challenge the use of federal anti-housing discrimination law to silence public opposition to a privately developed housing project," according to the website for the Center for Individual Rights (CIR).

Sloan graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

He is "an avid cyclist, commuting to work by bike, and last summer he rode his bike solo from Canada to Mexico, passing through Santa Monica on his way," City officials said.

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