Richmond police chief details cost benefits of keeping code enforcement attorney

Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus is fighting to keep the attorney who works with the code enforcement unit, as her contract is up for renewal.
The photo shows before and after shot of a property that was cleaned up by code enforcement staffers.

The Richmond Police Department’s code enforcement unit was hard-hit by the city’s $20 million deficit.

Eleven of 29 code enforcement employees are facing layoffs unless the city can gain concessions from its unions, according to the Contra Costa Times. These employees are tasked with ridding Richmond of blight by cleaning up problem properties, many of which have been vacant due to foreclosures that resulted from the housing crisis.

Now, Police Chief Chris Magnus is fighting to keep the attorney who works with the code enforcement unit, as City Council is set to decide whether to renew her contract. The  attorney, Trisha Aljoe, is paid up to $175,000 annually – less than half of what outside attorneys are typically paid by the city – and receives no benefits since she is not a city staffer.

Aljoe works on a variety of city matters including the abatement of problem properties, illegal dumping, drug houses and also regulatory enforcement for taxis, towing, alarms and medical marijuana, Magnus said.

In order to save money, Councilmember Corky Booze has suggested using staff attorneys to handle Aljoe’s work. Magnus argues Aljoe is necessary to code enforcement, not only because she is good at her job but also for having the specific skills and experience to handle the work.

To suggest any attorney can do it is “akin to the idea that a podiatrist would be a good choice to perform cardiac surgery,” the police chief said.

But if Aljoe’s skills won’t convince City Council, then perhaps the revenue she provides to city coffers through her work will. Magnus put together a rather convincing list to prove what Aljoe has done to provide fiscal value and cost savings to Richmond. Check it out: