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Strategic campaigning II

By Donald E Gillespie, Jr, JD
Posted Friday, January 16, 2004

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An interesting and sinister twist in the growth thread is the role of the county attorney(ies) in presenting a draft of proposed ordinance. Let me say I do not know Gunn or Messick. I do not know if either or both or the firm is employed by or contracted with the county. I do not know the scope of employment or contracted work. Against that tabula rasa let me comment generally that a county attorney usually has a duty to the commission, his/her employer, not directly to the citizenry at large. In fact, the county attorney may owe his/her duty to a majority of the commission rather than the commission as a whole.

That can lead to such sweaty deals as befell Guilford County when the then-majority Republicans gave verbal direction to the county attorney via a single chairman to cobble up a scheme to reduce the number of seats on the DSS board and keep it confidential from the Democrats. The proposal saw first light on last meeting of commission before end of fiscal year and passed on party line vote over tabled motions to allow time for study and dire threats to hang the county attorney.

Was it smelly? Yep. Was it legal? Also, yep.

All that is preface to a suggestion that rather than say county attorny is evil, wicked and his mama dresses him funny look for the duty owed and to whom is it owed? If the county attorney stands to benefit from ordinance, that probably does not require recusal since he/she does not have a vote. More likely there must be disclosure to the client, the commission, that such a potential conflict exists. Client can then say no problem. In this instance it is more likely that a public record would exist of such a disclosure and minority members would more likely have some actual knowledge of the nature of the possible conflict.

 
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