Citing No Performance Issues, Council Replaces City Attorney

After the Menifee City Council emerged from a closed session Wednesday night, deputy mayor Wallace E...

After the Menifee City Council emerged from a closed session Wednesday night, deputy mayor Wallace Edgerton made a point of praising the work of Julie Biggs, who has served as interim city attorney for nearly two years.

"Julie, I would say that in the interim that you served, you did a good job for the council," Edgerton (right) said about Biggs, who represents the law firm of Aleshire & Wynder. "I want to emphasize that any relationship you had with me and all my dealings with you were extremely favorable. You were polite, you were appropriate and you were responsive, and so for the work you've done, I want to go on record as saying I'm really appreciative of it and I thank you."

Curiously, those comments came moments after Mayor Scott Mann announced to the audience that the council had just voted 3-2 to replace Biggs. No, Mann was not one of the three voting to make a change -- but Edgerton was.

You figure it out.

Defending the move by saying "it was obligatory in the original agreement" to accept other applicants for the permanent position at some point, Edgerton didn't give any other reason for the change in an interview after the council meeting. Neither did council member Tom Fuhrman, who voted with Edgerton and Greg August after refusing to recuse himself from the voting process despite being the focus of code violations on his Wooden Nickel Ranch that involved actions taken by Biggs on behalf of the city.

Fuhrman was asked why Biggs was not retained if all the comments from the dais after the announcement praised her performance.

"Everyone's not praising her," said Fuhrman, shown at left with Mann at a previous meeting. "We felt the one we picked would do a better job."

Fuhrman was then asked in what ways he felt Biggs' successor would do a better job.

"That's a long story," Fuhrman said under his breath, leaving the room.

Thus Edgerton was left to explain the change, as well as the selection of the new city attorney hired -- Jeff Melching of the law firm Rutan & Tucker.

The selection of Melching's firm raises questions because of Rutan & Tucker's connection with the City of Irvine, which is at the center of an investigation by the Orange County District Attorney's Office into allegations of lax financial oversight in the Great Park development, a $1.4 billion project begun while a representative of Rutan & Tucker was representing Irvine as its city attorney

According to a report in the Orange County Register, an audit found discrepancies in travel expenses, design changes made without staff approval, double-billing and other questionable practices. R