LLOYD W. PELLMAN
Former L.A. County Counsel Now Provides Service to Nossaman Clients as Expert on Government Law
By Sherri Okamoto
For former Los Angeles County Counsel Lloyd “Bill” Pellman, public service is a way of life. His 31 years in the County Counsel’s Office was not enough—he still does work for public agencies and volunteers for community endeavors. His wife is also active organizing neighborhood events, and she has been a long-time docent for the Huntington Library and Pacific-Asia Museum. Even the family pet is involved, with Noodle the labradoodle regularly making rounds at Huntington Hospital as a therapy dog.
Pellman says his parents instilled a strong sense of community in him and his brothers growing up.
Pellman’s father was a self-taught mechanic. Pellman says he remembers that sometimes his father would get calls because some farmer’s equipment had broken down, and even if that farmer had an outstanding bill, Pellman’s father would go do the repair. Pellman’s father would say he wouldn’t let the nonpayment of last year’s bill stand in the way of what that farmer needed to do to take care of his own family.
Pellman’s mother was a homemaker, but anytime there was a death in the neighborhood, “she was always one to make some kind of casserole or something to be taken to the household,” and she would bake cakes for community fundraisers.
“Everyone knew everyone” in Ohio’s community of Hardin, according to Pellman. Pellman’s father was one of 12 siblings, and Pellman said he stopped counting the number of cousins he had after he got to 30. Pellman himself has only two brothers. The elder one became an insurance agent in Hardin. His younger brother served as the welfare director for Shelby County, Ohio, and as a city councilman for Sidney, Ohio.
Pellman is pictured here as a young boy.
Pellman was the first member in his family to go to college—neither of his parents completed high school. After graduating from Ohio State University in 1965, Pellman headed west because he had accepted a teaching position at Antelope Valley High School. He taught French and English for three years, and during that time, he also got married. Getting married helped him realize he needed to make more money, and so Pellman decided to go to law school.
“I had no idea what was involved in going to law school, and I didn’t know any lawyers or judges,” he said. “I’d never heard of the law school admission test.” His then-wife’s uncle also warned him that he may not like law school, and suggested he not put all his eggs in one basket by working during the day and going to school at night. The uncle worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (“JPL”) in La Cañada, and he recommended Pellman for a vacant position. Pellman says it was “kind of like a public information officer and assistant administrator of a training program for contract personnel.”
Pellman recalls it was “a really interesting job, and I’m glad I did it.” The position allowed him to cross paths with scientists, astronauts, celebrities, and politicians. He met the likes of movie director Robert Weiss, astronaut Frank Borman II, astronomer Carl Sagan, Vice President Spiro Agnew and future Secretary of Defense Harold Brown.
At times, Pellman admits, it was “a little grueling to work and go to law school,” but “it all worked out.”
After passing the bar exam in 1972, Pellman says the county was the first employer to make him a job offer. Unsure of what to do, he consulted a former coworker at JPL who had gone to Southwestern Law and finished a year ahead of him. The coworker had taken a job with a private firm and told Pellman to take the county job. Pellman says he was told, “You can’t always get in there, and it’s a great calling card if you want to later go into private practice.” So Pellman accepted the position, and “the first working day of January 1973 was my first day of work for the county.”
Pellman accompanies a news crew to record the appearance of data from a spacecraft in the control room of the Space Flights Operation Facility (“SFOP”) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena in the 1970s. Pellman worked at JPL during the day as a SFOP special events officer while going to law school at night.
During his first year in the County Counsel’s Office, Pelman says, he “looked around and decided, I’d like to be a division chief before I retire.” Being a division chief “broadens the kinds of things you get involved in,” Pellman notes, and soon enough, he was promoted. About two years later, the senior assistant he reported to retired, and Pellman again moved up the ranks.
“Each time you move up a little bit, your span of responsibility becomes larger and you learn more and you get to provide services in more areas,” Pellman says. “You get to meet additional people, and add additional experiences to your life.”
Pellman took the helm in 1998, heading a law office with a staff of about 500, representing the county in litigation, being legal advisor to the Board of Supervisors, county districts, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, county superintendent of schools, the Superior Court, and special districts. For 20 years, Pellman was the advisor to the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission, as well.
In September of that year, he married— just two days short of two years from when he and his future wife first met.
On that fateful day in the fall of 1996, Pellman had gone to the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Old Town Pasadena to use the computers in the store. He was looking for a book, but he couldn’t remember the title or the author, so he was hoping a computer search would help him locate it. In the middle of the store was a round table, stacked with copies of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dating,” by Judy Kuriansky. There was also a sign saying the author was going to be in the store that afternoon to do a meet-and greet.
Pellman recounts that he had been collecting signed books for a while by then, and he thought “this one could be interesting.” He candidly confesses he also thought, “I could use it,” after several years of being a divorcé.
When the author arrived, Pellman took a seat in the front row. This was completely uncharacteristic of him, he says, as “I had never voluntarily sat in the front row of any class, or anything, before this.”
Kuriansky called on the woman seated next to Pellman, whose name was Sylvia. She then called on Pellman and had him introduce himself to Sylvia. After that, Kuriansky talked about “all the things I did wrong and right,” Pellman says.
From there, Kuriansky had each member of the audience engage in some partner exercises with the person next to him or her, and Pellman says a woman a few rows back called out, “What do we do if the person won’t talk to you?” The woman with the tight-lipped partner was Kathleen Formanack, and Pellman swears her temporary misfortune was divine intervention.
Once the partner exercises were over, Pellman was the first in line to get his book signed. And he learned that the book he was looking for had also been written by Kuriansky.
Conversation About Book
When Pellman turned around with his newly-signed book in hand, Formanack was standing there. Pellman says he later heard from Formanack’s friend that Formanack had wanted to meet him after seeing him interact with Sylvia, but she had never before approached a stranger. The friend assured Formanack that “Nothing ever comes out of things like this,” so Formanack struck up a conversation with Pellman about the book. They had coffee together at the Starbucks next door, exchanged business cards, then went their separate ways.
Pellman called two days later and they met for dinner. About halfway through the meal, Formanack mentioned a family whose daughter occasionally babysat her children. Pellman knew the girl, as she was the daughter of his former boss.
The coincidences continued, as it turned out both Formanack and Pellman were registered for a charity walk that upcoming weekend. They met up and had lunch—but not before Formanack called up Pellman’s former boss to get the low-down on Pellman. The former boss “didn’t have anything negative to say,” Pellman says, and the rest is history.
Pellman and Formanack were wed in a ceremony in the County Counsel’s Office, with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Eric Taylor presiding. For the last 25 years now, Pellman says, they’ve proudly displayed the autographed copy of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dating” in their home.
Retires From Office
In March 2004, Pellman retired from the County Counsel’s Office. His wife—who goes by the name Kathleen Formanack-Pellman, says that he “failed” at retiring though. After a mere two weeks, he joined Brown, Winfield & Canzoneri, where previous MetNews Person of the Year Nowland Hong was the managing partner. Pellman had long been friends with Hong, and he says “it seemed like it’d be a fun thing to do to go to work with that group.”
About a year later, the firm started cutting back its work for public agencies and Pellman gave the Nossaman LLP a call. Nossaman had been courting Pellman before his retirement, so “I thought I’d see if thy still wanted me,” he says. The firm did, and Pellman joined the firm in September 2005.
Pellman, then-special events officer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), along with retired Air Force colonel Glenn Lairmore and Astronaut Frank Borman, stand in a viewing room overlooking the control room in the Space Flights Operation Facility at JPL in the 1970s.
“I’ve had a wonderful career so far, I was blessed to work in the county counsel’s office and now with a firm I find to be totally socially aware and on top of their various practice areas.”
Nossaman is “very oriented for towards service,” and that is something he really appreciates about the firm, Pellman says.
Every year for the annual firm retreat, there’s always time set aside for a community service project. Last year they assembled bikes for foster kids. Before that, they made blankets for homeless, packaged filters for countries that don’t have clean water, and made care kits for servicemembers.
Bakes Banana Bread
Pellman also gives directly to his colleagues, in the form of carbohydrates. Formanack-Pellman bought him a bread maker years ago, so on Sundays he would regularly make a loaf of banana bread and “something experimental,” then take the breads to work Monday morning. He says he had employees tell him they were eager to get to work on Mondays to see what he had baked. He’s made a fabulous black olive rosemary bread, but he says it’s the banana bread that’s the best.
Baking is “a lot of fun,” he says, “I just have to not make so much that people eat more than they should.”
Pellman won’t divulge his banana bread recipe—“it’s a secret”—but he says part of the magic is using three overripe bananas that have been frozen, thawed, and squeezed before putting them in the mix.
“There’s a whole production before they go in,” he says. “But it makes a sweet, good banana flavor.”
Pellman says he has cut back on his baking some, but he won’t quit—nor will he quit working.
“I’ve never played a round of golf and this is really what I enjoy doing,” Pellman says. “If I can help the government work efficiently and properly, that’s well worth it.”
The late-JPL director William Hayward Pickering is “a role model for what I’m doing,” Pellman says. “He was still working when he died at 93.” Pickering “didn’t seem to age during the whole time that I knew him,” and was “productive to the very end,” Pellman recalls. “That’s how I want my life to be.”
Former Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley recalls “Bill Pellman and I worked on many mutual projects when he was Los Angeles county counsel and I was the elected D.A..” He says Pellman was “not only an exquisite gentleman but someone who always had the county’s best interests at heart and in mind.”
Being county counsel “brings with it incredible pressures unique to that position,” Cooley adds. “Bill always handled them with aplomb and grace.”
Praise From Antonovich
Former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Michael D. Antonovich praises Pellman as “a true professional dedicated to carrying out the law.” As county counsel, Pellman “was very accessible to the board, and we had a good working relationship,” Antonovich remembers. “He’s just a wonderful man, with a good work ethic, helping to make our community better.”
Former Los Angeles County supervisor Yvonne Burke says she also “always had a very good relationship” with Pellman. “He’s a hard worker, and has very good ideas, and he deserves all the acclaim he receives,” Burke declares. “He has continued to make a real contribution in a positive way to community, and all have to congratulate him on a job well-done.”
Kathleen and Lloyd Pellman are seen with their dog at a restaurant in the Bel Air Hotel.
Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Commission Executive Officer Paul Novak says Pellman “embodies the concept of public service over a distinguished and lengthy career,” and “those of us who are fortunate to rely on Bill’s advice proceed to make better decisions, to exercise more sensible judgment, and to serve the public more responsibly.”
He says Pellman is “an outstanding listener” who “provides valuable, measured, and thoughtful advice” and “will make himself available if you need his guidance, no matter how busy his schedule, without ever asking or expecting anything in return.”
‘Treasure’ to Firm
Nossaman Managing Partner David Graeler says Pellman “is a treasure to all of us both inside and outside of the firm,” and “we are fortunate we will get to work with him for many years to come.”
Hong, now with Best Best & Krieger, says Pellman was a client turned long-time friend. They met in 1983 when Hong handled a lawsuit arising out of the Big Rock Mesa landslide in Malibu, and Hong laughingly recalls Pellman was “one of the most cooperative clients I’ve had in over 60 years.”
Hong comments that Pellman has expertise “in so many areas” but in particular, has knowledge about public agencies that is “very, very broad.” But Pellman remains “very approachable” and willing to give advice and assistance to those in need of help, Hong says.
Hailed by Brazile
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Brazile says he has known Pellman for almost 40 years. When Brazile was a young lawyer, he worked for Pellman at the County Counsel’s Office, and Pellman became “a great mentor,” Brazile says. “That has continued literally my whole legal career.”
Pellman is a portrait of “wisdom, patience, integrity and courage,” Brazile declares. “He was all about promoting diversity, inclusion and equity before anyone coined that term.”
Brazile, a former presiding judge, adds that Pellman is “amazingly brilliant” and “a lawyer’s lawyer,” who “just has that magic touch in terms of getting things done.” Pellman earns the respect of everyone who knows him, and “elevates everyone around him” because “you get better, just because of who he is as a person” Brazile says. “He’s genuine, sincere, caring, and always working, whether it’s the weekend, day or night.”
Pellman is “the ultimate professional, the ultimate gentleman,” and he has “made an immense difference in the lives of so many people” Brazile says.
Attorney Gregory Bergman of the BDG Law Group says he remembers meeting Pellman “years and years ago” and they “just hit it off, and got along from the get-go.”
Pellman is “a really genuinely nice, smart, caring person” and a “square shooter” who always tells the truth as he sees it, Bergman says.
Over the years, Bergman relates that he’s noticed when he is out with Pellman, “everywhere we went, people know him,” and “Bill knew everybody everywhere.” Bergman says he believes that’s because “people are comfortable with him, they can trust him,” and “I’ve never heard him say anything negative about anyone behind their back.”
Bergman says Pellman uses those people skills, coupled with his “patience, calmness and good sense” to “make things work,” and that’s perhaps the secret to his success.
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