Nevada City attorney steps down; council expected to confirm interim this month
Nevada City Attorney Hal DeGraw has retired from his position after 10 years on the job.
“I really enjoyed my time with the city, working with staff and officials to preserve and protect Nevada City for our enjoyment and future generations,” said DeGraw, whose retirement became effective on New Year’s Eve.
DeGraw first served as a consulting attorney to the city in 2009 after retiring at age 66 from a 21-year career as an attorney in the Nevada County Counsel’s Office.
“I tried being retired, and after about nine months I found I missed being involved in local government,” DeGraw said. “I think the hardest part was I’d get the paper in the morning and read about what’s happening then, instead of already knowing what was happening.”
DeGraw said among his proudest accomplishments during his tenure was facilitating the sale and renovation of the National Hotel and acquiring the Sugar Loaf property. He plans to spend time with family, travel, take classes at Sierra College, play Pickleball and volunteer.
Under the contract the city has with law firm Jones and Mayer, the firm will provide a replacement — Crissy Hodgson, a municipal attorney with Jones and Mayer — whom DeGraw expects the council will vote to confirm during its Jan. 22 meeting.
Hodgson will act as interim city attorney until a permanent replacement is approved by the Nevada City Council, expected in two weeks.
Hodgson has been a Nevada City resident since 2009 and began working on Nevada City issues when she joined Jones and Mayer in 2015, working on the city’s marijuana business ordinance.
“I’m excited about taking over, I’ve worked with the staff for several years now and really enjoy working with them,” Hodgson said. “It’s not exactly like a new job because I already know everybody.”
Hodgson graduated from Chapman University School of Law and was admitted to the California State Bar in 2004. She served as deputy city attorney for several northern California cities, though the Nevada City role will be her first time as city attorney.
“I’m part of the community here, so I’m excited to be able to work in the office and being involved with my local community,” Hodgson said. “I think we have a good mix of really civic minded folks that seem to really care about the community and I’ve enjoyed living here, and I’m looking forward to giving back in this role and helping Nevada City with their legal needs.”
During the last City Council meeting, some members of the public accused DeGraw of a conflict of interest by inappropriately steering the City Council to use a lawyer in the firm he works for to write the 5G wireless telecom regulation ordinances.
“Why we are here tonight is because Hal DeGraw wanted to use the services of his firm to write the telecom ordinance and secure more billable hours,” Pauli Halstead, former candidate for Nevada City Council, said at the Dec. 10 meeting.
“I think Jones and Mayer, including Hal, have done the city a huge disservice and I don’t think we should be using their services any longer.”
When the ordinances were first being discussed by the council, Mayor Reinette Senum suggested using telecom consultants Center for Municipal Solutions, which she said would write the ordinances for free.
According to Nevada City’s contract with Jones and Mayer, “the City Attorney will supervise the outside legal counsel’s work and all the writing of ordinances,” meaning Jones and Mayer would be involved — and bill the city — even if an outside counsel was contracted as Senum suggested.
The contract also allows for the city to use other attorneys within the firm for specialized expertise in a subject area.
“What we do is utilize the attorneys within the firm that has the best knowledge with regards to a topic,” DeGraw said. “I don’t think it’s a conflict because it’s just another attorney in the same firm. If they want to go outside the firm they certainly could. I would assist the outside attorney to the extent that I could.”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.
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