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City’s attorney resigns

After months of 60-day contract extensions and closed-session negotiations with the Madera City Council, City Attorney Brent Richardson has reportedly resigned. His last day was Friday, according to sources with knowledge of the events.

City of Madera Communications Specialist Joseph Carrello confirmed Richardson was no longer employed with the city and briefly said, “We thank Mr. Richardson for his service to the city and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Richardson had long been a target of some residents’ ire over his 2017 salary and benefits package of $312,256, which the critics called excessive. This salary amount was a 49.83 percent increase over Richardson’s 2014 salary package of $208,410, according to data reported by the city and posted by Transparent California, a public salary database and watchdog group.

Richardson, a resident of Clovis, reportedly had 12 to 13 years of employment as the city’s in-house attorney.

Some taxpayers were shocked to learn of a potentially million-dollar general fund deficit looming in 2017, and had first called for a ‘house cleaning’ at City Hall back then. Longtime city manager David Tooley abruptly retired in December of 2017, not long after his salary package of $333,590 first came to light.

Khalid Chaudhry, a local business owner and outspoken critic of the mayor and city officials, said he wanted to thank the members of the new 2018 council for listening to residents, for their courage and for working hard to right the mistakes of the years past.

“The departure of the city attorney is a great start,” Chaudhry said “but there are others that are way overpaid and still need to go. They have already had these lavish salaries — which were taken on the backs of some of the poorest taxpayers in the valley, for way too long. End all this incompetence, for Madera’s sake.” said Chaudhry.

Business owner Kay Rhoads was also an early protester and proponent of change, and said she, too, welcomed the coming changes at City Hall. “It’s been over a year since these excessive salaries, some of the highest in the Central Valley, came to light. It’s about time. He should have recused himself a long time ago, as he was a recipient of all these raises.

“I also would have hoped he would have brought up (to city council) or tried to file lawsuits against these chemical companies that polluted our groundwater, (like other valley cities did) so we could afford to drill new (city) wells. This is a first step in the right direction for the City of Madera,” Rhoads said.

The newly elected Madera City Council, which had run on a mandate of change, had often been in closed-session contract negotiations until midnight or later, after regular Wednesday council meetings, reportedly to try and reverse or reduce the large senior staff salary increases and extract other concessions from senior city staff members.

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