Ariel Colonne says he can’t discuss the reason
Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Colonne confirmed Wednesday that he is on paid administrative leave and has been since July 25.
Mr. Colonne told the News-Press that the city council met in closed session on the morning of July 25 and that Mayor Randy Rowse informed him later that day of its decision to place him on leave.
Mr. Colonne declined to disclose the reasons behind the council’s decision.
“I was ordered not to say anything, but I can confirm I am on paid administrative leave,” he said. “I cannot confirm, deny or comment on the basis for that leave.”
Asked to comment on published reports of a heated argument between him and another attorney in his office, Mr. Colonne repeated, “I cannot comment on any source of disruption, or what the reason I’m on leave is.”
He said he did not know how long he would remain on paid leave. “I don’t know how long it will take,” he said. “All I can say is you’ve got to trust the process.”
Mayor Randy Rowse was even more tight-lipped Wednesday, declining to even say whether the city attorney was on paid administrative leave.
“He is on leave,” the mayor said. “It could be medical leave. It could be vacation leave. I can’t be more specific.”
Neither he nor other council members or any city official can comment further because of privacy issues involving personnel, Mayor Rowse said.
“All questions are supposed to be referred to the mayor,” he said, “and I can’t talk about it.”
He did confirm that Assistant City Attorney Sarah Knecht sat in for the city attorney at the last two council meetings, but added, “That’s not unusual.”
The city attorney and city administrator are the only two positions hired directly by the council and who report directly to the council.
Mr. Colonne, who was appointed city attorney in March 2014, is paid $280,000 a year.
Before coming to Santa Barbara, Mr. Calonne spent seven years as the city attorney of Ventura, four years as the city attorney of Boulder, Colo., and 13 years as the city attorney of Palo Alto.
He served as president of the City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities in 1998-1999 and was named Public Lawyer of the Year in 2003 by the Public Law Section of the State Bar of California. In 2006, the Colorado Metro City Attorneys Association honored him with the Outstanding City Attorney award. Mr. Calonne has authored numerous articles and amicus curiae briefs on public records, First Amendment governmental immunity, and open government issues. He was the founding chairperson of the League of California Cities’ Public Records Act Committee from 1994 until January 1998, and was a member of the advisory committee to the Joint Senate-Assembly Task Force on Personal Information and Privacy chaired by California State Senator Steve Peace. In 1996 and 1997, Mr. Calonne participated on the Electronic Access to Public Records Task Force formed under the Senate Select Committee on Information Services in State Government. Before serving in Palo Alto, he was with the Los Angeles law firm of Richards, Watson & Gershon where he served as city attorney for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes. He began his career as an associate with Best, Best & Krieger in Riverside, Calif., where he practiced water, municipal and environmental law. Mr. Calonne received his law degree at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He received his undergraduate degree in biology from UC Riverside.