Santa Barbara City Attorney Placed on Paid Leave by City Council

City Hall Stays Mum amid Report of Heated Hallway Exchange as Reason Behind Rare Action

Ariel Calonne | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Calonne was placed on paid administrative leave by the Santa Barbara City Council at a special meeting held the last week of July. Neither Calonne, who was hired in 2014, nor city Human Resources Director Wendy Levy would discuss details, stating it was a personnel matter. Mayor Randy Rowse and multiple councilmembers expressed the same non-talking points.  

In Calonne’s absence, Assistant City Attorney Sarah Knecht will function as City Attorney. 

No official information has been provided as to what precipitated the action, but Noozhawk reported that it arose out of an especially heated hallway exchange between Calonne and a fellow attorney.

The City Attorney is one of two positions over which the City Council — and not the City Administrator — has direct hiring and firing authority.

No one contacted was willing to opine whether litigation is expected. Neither could they recall a time when the council took similar action against a prior city attorney.

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