Aaron Leal

Denton City Attorney Aaron Leal has resigned to take a job in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Denton City Council members on Tuesday appointed Catherine Clifton interim city attorney to succeed Aaron Leal, who is leaving for a position in Royal Oak, Michigan.

“Staff will begin gathering proposals for executive recruitment services for a permanent city attorney and will bring those to council,” said Ryan Adams, the city's director of customer service and public affairs.

Clifton is a first assistant city attorney. As interim, she will be paid $174,410 annually plus a $750 vehicle allowance.

Leal, Denton’s city attorney since October 2017, has agreed to take a $60,000 annual pay cut for the city attorney position in Royal Oak. His current salary is $210,000. According to his employment agreement with Royal Oak, his starting pay, effective June 14, will be $150,000. He’ll also receive a monthly $600 auto allowance, a one-time bonus of $10,000 if he lives in Royal Oak within one year, a $75 monthly cellphone allowance and reimbursement of relocation expenses.

Leal, 52, has been with Denton since April 2011, when his starting pay was $90,000 as deputy city attorney. He also has worked as first assistant city attorney and interim city attorney before he was given a five-year contract set to expire in October 2022. Leal received one-year extensions in 2018 and 2019, with raises.

The Royal Oak Tribune reported April 27 that Leal and his wife want to return to Michigan to be “nearer to our immediate and extended family.”

In Denton, he oversees nine city attorneys. In his new role in Royal Oak, Leal will be charged with overseeing recreational marijuana business applications and creating a human rights commission, among other tasks, according to the Royal Oak Tribune.

A suburb of Detroit, Royal Oak’s population is about 60,000, and the city’s budget is $41 million. Denton has about 145,000 residents and an annual city budget of $1.3 billion.

Royal Oak commissioners unanimously approved hiring Leal on April 26.

He is the second Denton City Council appointee to resign since January, when then-City Manager Todd Hileman took a pay cut for the same position in Palm Desert, California. The other council appointees are the municipal judge and city auditor.

Leal announced his June 6 retirement to Mayor Gerard Hudspeth in an email dated April 30.

In the same email, Leal said he will spend the last five weeks of his time here “transitioning my duties and responsibilities onto my successor interim city attorney as selected by the council.”

PAUL BRYANT can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @paulbryant_DRC.

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