Atwater attorney charged $715,000 in a year. Here’s why he’s leaving the city

Atwater’s city attorney will part ways with the town next month, officials confirmed on Tuesday.

Doug White of Churchwell White has been the city attorney in Atwater for more than a year after being hired in March 2018. His last day is June 7, assuming an interim city attorney is in place, according to a news release.

Officials said the city would begin a search for a new city attorney while examining the costs of contracting with a legal firm, like White’s, versus bringing a full-time attorney in-house.

White’s been a controversial employee, drawing ire from some residents who argued he was overcharging the city. His supporters argued the city had been idling for a decade and White’s firm was making the necessary moves to get the cash-strapped city in order.

Churchwell White was paid $715,197 from the date it was hired through April, according to City Manager Lori Waterman.

White was hired during the tenure of former interim City Manager Art de Werk, who left shortly after that.

He was also on the job for the city as it put former Police Chief Samuel Joseph on leave before terminating him. Joseph has since filed a wrongful termination lawsuit.

A tumultuous couple of years saw the previous city attorney, Tom Terpstra, leave after five years and the election of a new council. White’s resignation letter cites progress he’s seen during his tenure.

“I am very proud of the progress the city has made over the last year,” the letter says. “With that progress in mind, I have made the decision to resign my position as city attorney.”