Royal Oak Tribune

Commission­ers OK contract to hire new city attorney

Recreation­al marijuana, human rights issues await Aaron Leal

- By Mike McConnell mmcconnell@medianewsg­roup.com @mmcconnell­01 on Twitter

Royal Oak city commission­ers Monday unanimousl­y approved a contract to hire a new city attorney from Denton, Texas.

Aaron Leal will step into the new job in Royal Oak on June 14. He is currently city attorney for Denton, a city of 141,000 and home to the University of North Texas and the Texas Women’s University.

“I think he’ll be pretty busy when he walks in the door,” said City Manager Paul Brake. “Two issues he’ll be dealing with is to help us complete the recreation­al marijuana (business) applicatio­ns, and setting up a human rights com- mission.”

The call for the city to create a human rights commission started last year following local and national protests in the wake of the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapoli­s.

Commission­er Kyle DuBuc stated Royal Oak, like all communitie­s, needed to have “an open discussion on addressing systemic racism.”

Other cities such as Ann Arbor and nearby Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge already have human rights commission­s that aim to help people understand racial and other types of discrimina­tion, and address them when they happen.

The deadline for marijuana business applicatio­ns to be submitted to Brake’s office was Feb. 1. However, no city licenses for cannabis operators have yet been issued. Recreation­al marijuana licenses awarded in a number of other cities statewide have been challenged in court, often because there are more applicants than there are available licenses.

Leal in his applicatio­n letter for the city attorney’s job in Royal Oak said that he has been licensed to practice law in Michigan and Texas.

“There is no doubt I have the experience you seek,” he said in the letter. “My wife and I are seeking to return to Michigan to be nearer to our immediate and extended family.”

Royal Oak’s contract with Leal gives him a $150,000 salary, a car allowance of $600 a month, moving expenses from Texas, and a $10,000 bonus if he moves into the city.

Leal, a graduate of University of Texas at Austin, received his law degree from the Indiana University School of Law. He started his legal career in Grand Rapids.

“I believe Mr. Leal has a wealth of experience,” said City Commission­er Monica Hunt, an attorney. “We are very lucky to have him coming in.”

Denton, Texas is much larger than Royal Oak. In Denton, Leal has been the head of a 12-attorney and six administra­tive in-house legal staff. Denton has over 30 city department­s with 1,680 employees and an annual budget of $1.24 billion.

Royal Oak has had a temporary city attorney, hired on a contract basis, since former City Attorney David Gillam left in November.

Hired after a national search, Leal’s job duties for the city include serving as Royal Oak’s legal advisor, as well as all its officers and department­s. He will be in charge of preparing developmen­t agreements, contracts and insurance policies, and manage all civil litigation for the city.

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