Atwater city attorney resigns, leaving a profitable position behind

Atwater’s City Attorney exits with a large legal bill after navigating the city through rough legal waters.

Atwater’s city attorney Doug White is resigning after serving for a little over a year.

White sent a letter on May 22 to the City Council announcing his resignation, saying his firm will provide services through June 7.


“It has been my great privilege to serve as city attorney for the city of Atwater,” White said in the letter. “I am very proud of the progress the city has made over the last year. With that progress in mind, I have made the decision to resign my position as city attorney.”

Churchwell White LLP, White’s legal firm, has been serving the city since March 2018.

City officials said they would compare the costs of using a legal firm to hiring a full-time attorney in-house.

Atwater paid Churchwell White $715,197 from March 2018 to April 2019, the Merced Sun-Star reported. Some locals allege that Churchwell White overcharged the city for its services.

Former interim City Manager Art de Werk left his position shortly after hiring White.

During White’s tenure, Atwater put former Police Chief Samuel Joseph in leave before terminating him. Joseph has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city.

Tom Terpstra, the previous city attorney, served for five years and left after a new city council was elected.

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