The city announced today that Michael Martello, Mountain View's longest serving city attorney, is set to retire in December.
"Before he came here no one had much confidence in the legal office and we had a lot of problems," recalls council member Jac Siegel. Martello made his office accessible to council members and staff. He would say "tell me what you want and I'll tell you how to do it. He was one of those guys who would say 'we'll figure out a way.'"
Since being hired by the City Council in January 1994, Martello has defended the city in some of the most significant legal battles in its history. In 2005 he successfully won the city over $10 million in lawsuit against Clear Channel and others for rent due on the Shoreline Amphitheatre and in the mid 1990s he saved the city millions from an investment pool with Orange County. Orange County had gone bankrupt, and cities with less competent legal help lost far more than Mountain View did, Siegel said.
"Mike really saved our bacon in that one," Siegel said. "We would have potentially lost millions of dollars."
Siegel says that since Martello took the helm, there have been far fewer questionable "big pocket" claims against the city. If there was ever any doubt about a claims validity for something, such as a city tree's roots damaging a resident's sewer line, Martello would take the claim to court, which discouraged many potential lawsuits. The number of claims just "dropped off," Siegel said.
City officials say Martello never lost a high profile lawsuit in his 16 years. In his 29 year long career he also served as city attorney in Concord and Thousand Oaks, Calif. and has become a leader among city attorneys statewide. He is considered an expert in conflict of interest law and is a certified to train city officials in the topic.
Martello will continue to live in Mountain View and may even write a book about conflict of interest law, Siegel said.
"He will be very hard to replace," Siegel said.