City attorney to retire after 25 years with Claremont

After more than two decades, Sonia Carvalho is leaving her position as the city attorney for Claremont.

The decision, which resulted from a closed-session council meeting Tuesday afternoon, was learned Wednesday evening. The Tuesday meeting was agendized as “public employee evaluation.”

“During the city attorney evaluation this evening, we mutually decided that after 25 years of service to the city, Sonia Carvalho will retire,” Mayor Larry Schroeder wrote in the statement, which was dictated to the COURIER by City Manager Tony Ramos. “The city council will work with the city manager to find a successor.”

Ms. Carvalho, when reached by phone Thursday morning, said the decision to leave Claremont was borne from her desire to scale back work after 25 years with the city and her firm, Best, Best & Krieger (BB&K).

She will now work only with Santa Ana as their city attorney. Ms. Carvalho previously worked for the cities of Colton, Yorba Linda and Azusa.

One of her last tasks was to wrap up the Pomona College Museum of Art project lawsuits. Mr. Ramos’ decision to retire in August was also a significant moment for her, she said.

“When Tony [Ramos] gave his notice he was going to retire, it certainly caused me to examine that plan and it all coincided very nicely,” she said.

Ms. Carvalho’s retirement comes on the heels of Claremont’s withdrawal of appeals regarding the failed takeover of the water system. Separate attorneys from BB&K represented the city against Golden State Water Company, while Ms. Carvalho served as the city’s general counsel.

Ms. Carvalho said while the decision over the water trial was “disappointing” to those who worked on it, “that outcome did not personally have an impact on my decision” to retire.

During public comment on the closed session meeting Tuesday afternoon, resident Michael Keenan said he didn’t understand why the council was having the evaluation while they should be looking for a new city attorney. “I don’t see why we’re continuing to waste money on representation that’s costing us money,” Mr. Keenan said.

Mr. Ramos would not say if the council will stick with BB&K given Ms. Carvalho’s exit, but explained that he will present the council with “a menu of options” for legal services.

Ms. Carvalho has worked on the Hughes Community Center, city hall renovations, the city’s general plan update, the Village West expansion, Johnson’s Pasture and the 210 freeway expansion.

“One of the reasons I enjoyed working for Claremont is that the community is such a tenacious place,” she said. “The people don’t give up.”

One story she remembered was when the city was battling Caltrans over restriping Foothill Boulevard, a project that coincided with the 210 freeway expansion. The city was trying to figure out how to preserve the “Claremont look” by blocking Caltrans from painting on Foothill Boulevard.

“I said, ‘We can try this and we can try that,’ and the assistant city manager at the time says ‘Okay that’s great, we have a plan,’” she explained with a laugh. “I asked what they were going to do, and he said, ‘We’re going to park our trash trucks all along Foothill Boulevard.”

When reached by phone Wednesday evening, Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali said he couldn’t comment on what was said in the closed session meeting, but later added he treats all city officials the same way—if he’s happy with them, he’s happy, but when he’s not happy, he’s not.

Councilmembers Joe Lyons, Sam Pedroza and Corey Calaycay did not return phone calls asking for comment. Mr. Schroeder said he would not comment beyond his statement.

The retirement date will be effective as soon as a successor is found, according to Mr. Ramos. There is no timeline set for when the search will commence or end.

In a phone conversation Thursday morning, Mr. Ramos wished her the best in her retirement.

“We thank her for her 25 years of service,” Mr. Ramos said. “There are projects she worked on that I think are really important for the city.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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