Krieger's lawyer: Recent action is a 'witch hunt'
Describing the city council's actions as a “witch hunt,” a lawyer for Mayor Al Krieger recently sent a letter to city attorney Steven Moore asking why he failed to comment on any potential conflict of interest during the Jan. 18 meeting when the council discussed and voted on investigating the mayor.
In the letter obtained by the Yuma Sun and dated Jan. 24, 2012, attorney Timothy A. La Sota from the Scottsdale-based Rose Law Group wrote “a couple of people ... have stated that (Krieger) committed some kind of a transgression by participating in the (meeting),” but under Arizona law a conflict of interest only occurs if “a public official has a pecuniary or financial interest” before the city council and that “a mere vote to initiate an illegitimate investigation into the Mayor ... does not involve any such interest.”
La Sota also referenced the city charter, writing, “Under the charter, the only thing that would compel an elected official not to participate would be a conflict of interest under state law, which does not exist here.”
La Sota then states that “I assume by your silence at the Jan. 18 meeting that you agree with this common sense view of the law. If my assumption is incorrect, we would really like to know your basis for coming to a contrary conclusion and why you failed to say anything at the meeting?”
La Sota concluded by stating that “certain segments apparently feel that engaging in gutter politics is more important than addressing the real needs that the community wants addressed. If the gutter politics ... continue ..., the mayor is not simply going to play the role of the punching bag.”
The Yuma Sun obtained letter from Moore in response to La Sota's inquiry, in which Moore wrote, “Any silence at the Jan. 18 City Council meeting should not be taken as support or opposition to issues regarding a possible mayoral conflict of interest under state law.”
Moore added that unlike most municipalities in Arizona where the city attorney works directly for the mayor and city council, Yuma's city attorney works as chief legal adviser for both the city council and the city administrator.
“Ethical rule 1.7 forbids a lawyer from the representation of one client if ‘the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client,'” Moore wrote. “Although I may be able to assist with general questions regarding the city charter or procedural matters, I believe the city attorney is precluded from acting as legal counsel to the mayor over the city council members or city council members over the mayor ... (So) I have advised my clients that if they are going to engage in an investigation of the mayor, that such investigation should have independent legal counsel.”
Here is a portion of the Arizona Revised Statute that defines conflicts of interest regarding public officials.
38-503. Conflict of interest; exemptions; employment prohibition
A. Any public officer or employee of a public agency who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any contract, sale, purchase or service to such public agency shall make known that interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from voting upon or otherwise participating in any manner as an officer or employee in such contract, sale or purchase.
B. Any public officer or employee who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any decision of a public agency shall make known such interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from participating in any manner as an officer or employee in such decision.