Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – City attorney Richard Cortizas will step down next week, after serving nearly three years in Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration, City Hall announced Friday.
According to a city statement, Cortizas’ last day will be May 3. The city says Cortizas will pursue family business interests and take a position with the city’s largest law firm, Jones Walker.
Sharonda Williams, who serves as Chief Deputy City Attorney for Litigation, will be promoted to City Attorney, the mayor’s office said.
Cortizas is the second high-profile departure from the Landrieu administration in as many days. On Thursday, City Hall announced New Orleans Fire Department Supt. Charles Parent, who is on medical leave, would be leaving his post as well.
Cortizas’ departure also comes as the Landrieu administration battles with the U.S. Department of Justice over federal consent decrees for the New Orleans Police Department and Orleans Parish Prison. As city attorney, Cortizas and his staff are heavily involved in negotiations and high-priced court proceedings on both matters.
“Richard has been a key member of our team and a true public servant for our city,” said Mayor Landrieu in a statement. “He was a part of the team that negotiated the NOPD consent decree. He has overseen a turnaround of the contracting process in the Law Department and a major increase in ABO (alcoholic beverage outlet) prosecutions. I want to personally thank Richard for his hard work and service on behalf the people of New Orleans.”
Cortizas has served as City Attorney since October 2011. Previously, he was Mayor Landrieu’s Executive Counsel from May 2010 to October 2011.
The city’s statement announcing his departure touted Cortizas’ efforts at improving contracting processes and handling with nuisance bar complaints as well as handling the legal challenges to taxicab reform and legal efforts to plan for the new hospital in New Orleans East.
Cortizas’ replacement, Sharonda Williams, has worked in the city attorney’s office since 2011. Prior to joining City Hall, Williams was a partner at Sher Garner Cahill Richter Klein & Hilbert LLC. She was the first African-American to become a partner at the firm. She is a Xavier University and Loyola University School of Law graduate.