Mayor's city attorney pick served three decades in Montgomery County

Mayor Gavin Buckley has tapped a Montgomery County attorney to lead the city’s office of law.

Richard Melnick, an assistant attorney with the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office, would become the next city attorney for Annapolis if the City Council council confirms him Monday.

Melnick has 30 years of experience in municipal government — something that put him on Buckley’s “radar,” he said. He served in Montgomery County first as an assistant county attorney, then as an associate county attorney.

“Richard’s going to bring some depth to the team,” Buckley said. “He’s going to help us focus on increased public safety and improving constituent outreach and streamlining our economic development process.”

He will make $143,000, said city spokeswoman Susan O’Brien.

Melnick attended the University of Maryland as an undergraduate and received a law degree from the Francis Carey King School of Law in 1985. Melnick’s experience is in civil law, including contract, commercial and tort cases.

Melnick had a hand in nearly every aspect of the county law office, said Montgomery County Attorney Marc Hanson, including defending the county in civil suits, drafting legislation and presiding over contract negotiations. In the last 10 years, Melnick has been deeply involved in the county’s procurement processes, Hanson said.

“He’s immensely well qualified and a decent person,” Hanson said.

Melnick was a senior assistant counsel in the Maryland Office of Bar Counsel and litigated cases for the state’s Attorney Grievance Commission. The commission oversees lawyers who practice in Maryland and tries those practitioners accused of wrongdoing.

In this capacity, Melnick litigated a complaint in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, his only case in the county. He has also worked on cases in Prince George’s County Circuit Court and Montgomery County Circuit Court.

If confirmed, Melnick will be the first permanent city attorney seated since Michael Leahy left the position in March 2017. Acting City Attorney Gary Elson will return to his former role as assistant city attorney.

“I was impressed with his eagerness to address our issues proactively versus reactively,” said Alderwoman Elly Tierney, D-Ward 1.

Aldermen Ross Arnett, Rob Savidge and Marc Rodriguez also said Melnick impressed them with his knowledge of city issues. All said they would vote to confirm him Monday.

Alderwoman Shaneka Henson, D-Ward 6, said Melnick’s experience and eagerness are “refreshing.” Henson said she sees no issues with Melnick as an appointee, but would have like to see an Annapolis resident up for the job.

“I know that Judge Claudia Barber, who had ran for the open judicial seat (for Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in 2016), she had expressed interest,” Henson said. “I would have loved to have seen how her credentials stacked up against his.”

Barber lost the race for a position on the Circuit Court bench in November 2016. A former administrative law judge for the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings, Barber was the first black woman on the ballot for the court.

She was fired from her position with the OAH after former Circuit Court Judge Ronald Jarashow filed an ethics complaint against her for running in a partisan election while still serving. She was later ordered to repay the money she borrowed from her campaign fund to fight the complaint.

Henson said she’d like to hear from other council members and the public, and seek more information about the appointment process, before deciding her vote.

The next council meeting is Monday.

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