The Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday to fire City Attorney Ariel Calonne, effective Dec. 8, following a special closed session meeting.
The decision was made by a unanimous vote of six council members. Councilmember Mike Jordan was absent.
After the council met early Tuesday in a special closed-door session, Mayor Randy Rowse reported that the council had voted to terminate the employment of a public employee, Mr. Calonne, who has been on paid administrative leave since July 25.
The agenda for the special closed session meeting called the matter a “public employee discipline/dismissal/release per government code.”
Mayor Rowse, who submitted the matter for council consideration Tuesday, would not discuss Mr. Calonne’s termination, or the reasons behind it.
“If this is about Ariel, there won’t be any comment,” he told the News-Press.
Mr. Calonne also declined to discuss his firing.
“I don’t have any comment, either. I’m sorry I can’t help you,” he said, before hanging up.
Shelly Cone, the city’s public information officer, repeated that the city would not comment further, calling it a “personnel matter.”
But in her news release, she assured residents that Mr. Calonne’s permanent departure will not impact the office he once led.
“There will be no interruption in operations at the City Attorney’s Office, which will continue to provide full services to the city of Santa Barbara,” she said.
Assistant City Attorney Sarah Knecht has filled in at the City Attorney’s Office since Mr. Calonne’s suspension 3½ months ago, including appearing at city council meetings in his absence.
Ms. Cone could not say when the council would meet to consider and approve his permanent replacement.
“The city attorney is one of two positions, including the city administrator, that is hired by the city council,” she said. “So that will be fully noticed when any action is determined.”
Tuesday’s council decision comes a week after the council met in special session Nov. 1 to conduct a public performance evaluation of Mr. Calonne, who told the News-Press when he was suspended that he was ordered not to say anything.
Published reports at the time said his suspension followed a heated argument between him and another attorney in the City Attorney’s Office, which was overheard by others and reported to Human Resources.
Mr. Calonne said at the time that he did not know how long the city investigation would take, but that “you’ve got to trust the process.”
He was appointed city attorney in March 2014, and he was earning $280,000 a year when he was suspended.
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 1998-99, 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.