After celebrating a recent retirement and two decades of service to San Jose, former City Attorney Rick Doyle died Aug. 23 at age 65 from cancer.
“San Jose has lost one of its greatest champions in Rick Doyle,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “Rick made a career out of fighting for our city, but through the toughest of battles — including his own courageous struggle against cancer — he never allowed himself to be anything less than the incredibly kind, thoughtful, good-spirited person that made him so beloved as a colleague and a friend.”
Doyle served the city under three mayors and led it through countless lawsuits — from resolving the contentious Measure B pension battle to claims arising from massive flooding of three San Jose neighborhoods. He was there when Donald Trump supporters filed suit after being assaulted following a campaign rally.
“He was a great problem solver and was absolutely an outstanding City Attorney,” said City Manager Dave Sykes, who knew Doyle for more than 20 years. “On a personal note, he helped me learn and grow as a person and a leader. I consider myself fortunate to have worked with him all these years.”
In one of his last public interviews, Doyle told San José Spotlight in June that the city has many challenges and opportunities in the years ahead as it grapples with overhauling its policing, confronting inequality and racism.
“There’s a lot of exciting things coming up in the future and I think it’s something that’s going to be debated and discussed and I think that’s something that somebody else can certainly handle moving forward,” Doyle said at the time.
From cases involving pension reductions for public employees to Gov. Jerry Brown’s abolishment of redevelopment agencies (RDA), which demolished funding for affordable housing, Doyle advised the city through numerous legal battles.
“Rick handled so many difficult things with apparent ease,” former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed told San José Spotlight. “He had dozens of bosses over the course of his career and he managed to get along with everybody even though many times people were not happy with his advice.”
Reed said despite having a taxing job, Doyle never swore and never spoke ill of others.
“He had a lot of good reasons to do all those things, but he didn’t. He was a real professional and an extremely confident person,” Reed said.
Former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales said Doyle was instrumental in drafting language on ballot initiatives to invest in building public spaces.
“When I came into office in January ’99, what I felt was missing was great investment in the city’s infrastructure,” Gonzales said. “He helped guide us with several proposals we eventually put in front of the voters.”
Gonzales said the ballot initiatives Doyle helped draft paved the way for the construction of libraries, fire stations and open spaces.
“He really provided expert advice on deadlines on ballot initiatives,” Gonzales said. “His legacy will live on in those neighborhood libraries, in those neighborhood fire stations, in those open space areas and all those things that make San Jose a great city.”
Doyle’s most noteworthy case, Gonzales said, was fighting Oracle founder and tech tycoon Larry Ellison who wanted to land his private jet at San Jose’s airport at all hours, skirting the city’s curfew.
Although a federal judge threw out the case, Doyle negotiated with the Federal Aviation Administration on drafting a new airport curfew policy to Ellison’s dismay.
“His face was probably on Larry Ellison’s dartboard for some time,” Gonzales said.
Dearest friends, I’m extremely sad to share that yesterday afternoon, Rick Doyle, passed away. For over 20 years, he…
Angelique Gaeta, former assistant to the city manager, honored Doyle in a Facebook post.
“For over 20 years, he was our city attorney, a mentor and a dear friend,” Gaeta said. “During that time Rick helped build my confidence by trusting me as an attorney and supporting me as a manager. I will miss our chats, Rick. Rest In Peace.”
Doyle is survived by his wife and two sons.