Pleasanton City Attorney Michael Roush announced this weekend that he will retire at the end of September after 32 years in the municipal attorney profession, including the last 21 years here.
Roush was named city attorney for Pleasanton in 1988, succeeding Peter MacDonald, who held the office for six years and left to open his own private practice. Prior to taking the Pleasanton post, Roush was in the city attorney's office in Vallejo for 11 years, which he joined after receiving his law degree from Golden Gate University School of Law. He received his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley.
City Manager Nelson Fialho said an executive search firm has been retained to find a successor to Roush, whose salary currently is $187,000 a year.
Although all city staff and department heads report to the city manager, the city attorney is the only other top city executive who reports directly to the City Council. Roush said he deliberately planned his retirement this September in a non-election year so that a new city attorney would have the opportunity to work with the current council well ahead of any changes that might come in November 2010, when the mayor's position and two council seats will be on the ballot.
Roush and his three-person office, including one full time assistant city attorney and two who work part-time, handle numerous lawsuits involving the city although their primary role is to draft agreements, ordinances, resolutions and other legal documents as well as to provide legal advice to the city staff.
Roush participates in all City Council meetings, including workshops and closed door sessions that involve personnel, property negotiations and litigation issues that California's Brown Act specifically excludes from public disclosure. In that regard, he is also the public's watchdog in making sure that only issues excluded by the Brown Act are discussed in these private sessions.
Roush took the city attorney's post here just as negotiations were wrapping up over the annexation of Ruby Hill. The planned community development had been approved by Alameda County after Pleasanton officials balked at approving development plans within the city, but then voted to annex the development rather than have it developed as a stand-alone community in the county or possibly to be annexed into Livermore.
At the time he came, the city and county of San Francisco also was considering developing the 510-acres it had owned in the heart of Pleasanton since the 1930s, commonly called the Bernal property.
When San Francisco, irked by delays by Pleasanton in considering its plans for up to 2,300 homes on the unincorporated site, sought separately to gain approval from Alameda County to proceed with the development independent of Pleasanton, Roush threatened a lawsuit on behalf of the council against both San Francisco and Alameda County.
Eventually, San Francisco backed down and agreed to negotiate, and Roush, along with city officials in office at the time, spent much of the 1990s seeking an agreement. In 2000, Roush was a key player in arranging the sale of the Bernal property to a developer consortium led by Greenbriar Homes, which paid San Francisco $126 million for the land. In the deal negotiated by Roush, Greenbriar and others received city permits to build the homes and apartments now on Bernal with the city receiving 370 acres free of charge to develop for public uses.
The first public project--lighted baseball fields on the Bernal property--are already visible and will be dedicated in September.
Roush also was instrumental in handling the legal aspects of acquiring unincorporated land that is now the Callippe open space preserve and public golf course in the southwest corner of the city. At first, the effort was to annex all of Happy Valley, but property owners there rejected that bid. Roush worked to acquire the golf course and open space acreage instead and then successfully defended the city in a lawsuit by the Alisal Improvement organization, a Happy Valley homeowners' group, aimed at blocking the golf course development.
Also, shortly after Roush became city attorney, he represented the city's interests in 1989 and 1990 when Hacienda Business Park went through its metamorphosis during the last major recession. At the time, half the business park was vacant. Working with Hacienda's major investor, Prudential Insurance Company, Roush negotiated changes in the park's complex rules of approval with the city council agreeing to rezone much of the land for townhomes and apartments.
"We worked closely with Prudential to come up with a new development agreement that would really allow the property to be developed as it now looks today," Roush said. "I think anyone who drives through that business park now has to be impressed with the way it looks."
Two recent lawsuits against Pleasanton are just now working their way through preliminary court hearings and probably won't be resolved before Roush leaves office. One is by Urban Habitat which is contesting the city's 29,000-unit housing cap. The other, filed several months ago by environmental groups and Safe Streets Pleasanton, seeks a court order to throw out an Environmental Impact Report that supports the development of Staples Ranch and construction of a Stoneridge Drive extension to Livermore.
Roush believes a third major lawsuit that is now before the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco could be decided before he leaves office. That suit involves a local citizens' group opposed to the Oak Grove development atop Kottinger Ranch and the development's proponents, the Lin family. The city of Pleasanton, although named as a defendant in the suit, does not have an active role in the appeal.
Once he leaves office as city attorney, Roush plans to work part-time for a private law firm that specializes in public sector work.
"I want to still practice law but probably more in a part-time situation," he said. "I also plan to do some volunteer legal work. That's something I've long wanted to do but you can't do that when you are working full-time as a city attorney."
Married for 35 years, Roush also plans to spend more time with his wife Vicky in their Pleasanton home and to visit more often with their three children, all graduates of Amador Valley High School. Son Nathaniel, 31, works in the Information Technology department for the city of Fremont; daughter Megan Charrin, 28, is a French language translator of medical and other technical journals for a San Francisco company, and daughter Erin Roush, 23, is an actress who performed in a number of stage plays at the Amador Theater. She just completed a nine-month tour as a performer on the cruise ship Disney Wonder.
"It's been a great run as Pleasanton's city attorney," Roush said. "I've had the opportunity to work with various councils and they've all been very good to me. It's my family, so to speak. Leaving here is going to be a big change.
"In September, I will have served 32 years with city governments," he added. "It's time for someone else to take over day-to-day affairs and it will gives me an opportunity to do some of the things that I have wanted to do."