By Tasmin McGill, Guest Contributor
City attorney Philip Kohn will leave his post at the end of 2023 after a 41-year run as Laguna Beach City Attorney.
Announcing his intention to retire earlier this year, Mayor Whalen and city council officials began searching for an adequate replacement.
“No one will exceed your tenure, I am certain, of 41 years, so you’re going to go in the hall of fame for that. Just an outstanding assistance to the city,” Mayor Bob Whalen said of Kohn during the Laguna Beach City Council regular meeting on Aug. 8.
After being with Rutan & Tucker, LLP since March 1979, Laguna Beach will leave the law firm’s services behind for Best Best & Krieger, LLP.
For six weeks, the city accepted proposals from a multitude of law firms, but only interviewed and evaluated seven that were qualified. Ultimately, city officials unanimously voted for Best Best & Krieger.
With experiences in areas that pertain to Laguna, such as election law, labor and employment, and California Coastal Control Commission, the council found that attorneys Megan Girabaldi and Alisha Winterswyk were qualified and ready to take over the position of city attorney and assistant city attorney, respectively.
“I will serve as the city attorney and handle the day-to-day legal needs of the city, Alisha will serve as the assistant,” Garibaldi said. “She is a CEQA and Coastal Act expert, and so as a team, we hope to serve the city’s legal needs, and we know that CEQA and coastal needs are paramount to the issues the city faces daily.”
Although the city’s contract with Best Best & Krieger is set for five years, there will be a possibility to extend an additional three years if necessary. Garibaldi and Winterswyk will begin their five-year contract with the city on Sept. 11.
To ensure a smooth transition, Kohn will serve as a consultant for six months.
“We have a lot to learn from him and from the rest of staff, so we are really excited for the opportunity,” Winterswyk said.
“We are thrilled to have been selected and to get the opportunity to serve the city. We can’t wait to start and I just wanted to note Phil’s remarkable career as well,” Garibaldi. “Doing this [job] for a living, that is just absolutely amazing that someone has that kind of longevity and skill for it, and I am lucky to step into his shoes.”