County seeking legal counsel
The Washington County Board of Supervisors is trying to find out what they need to do to obtain legal counsel in light of Washington County Attorney Larry Brock’s letter telling them that his office cannot provide legal advice and opinions to the board because of a conflict of interest.
Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. was in the Board of Supervisors office this morning. During a phone interview today, Seward said the board will be talking with the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) legal counsel, Kris Hershberger, to find out what the official procedure is for obtaining a private attorney to represent the board.
Seward said the supervisors are contacting several attorneys in the area to ask if any of them would be willing to provide legal advice and opinions to the board. However, he said that the board doesn’t know if an advertisement needs to be placed to fill the position or if the supervisors need to make an official announcement at a meeting.
Hershberger has been out of town to a national association of counties meeting, Seward said, so they are still waiting for answers to their questions.
The Journal spoke with Eric Tabor of the Iowa Attorney General’s office Monday afternoon and The Journal e-mailed a copy of Brock’s letter to Tabor. In a voice mail message from Tabor of the Iowa Attorney General’s office, Tabor said that the Code of Iowa Chapter 333.754, subsection 4 addresses the issue. The code states, “The board [of supervisors] may appoint an attorney to act as county attorney in a civil proceeding if the county attorney and all assistant county attorneys are disqualified because of a conflict of interest from performing duties and conducting official business.”
As Supervisor Ron Bennett said Tuesday morning during the board’s weekly meeting, supervisors Seward and Bob Yoder and their attorney and former county attorney Barbara Edmondson have filed an ethics complaint against Brock with the Attorney Disciplinary Board of Iowa. Seward and Yoder will not comment on the complaint or related information.
Charles Harrington of the disciplinary board said that all information about an ethics complaint is confidential He could not say that such a complaint has been filed or any particulars of the complaint.
Harrington said that lots of complaints are filed with the board and lots of complaints are dismissed. If a complaint is valid, he said the determination would eventually come out.
The Iowa Supreme Court has established procedures for addressing complaints about alleged unethical conduct by lawyers. The Attorney Disciplinary Board is charged with investigating the complaints.
While there is no confirmation of the basis upon which the ethics complaint was filed, the county attorney’s office did file criminal charges against Seward and Yoder after the June 5, 2012, primary election.
Edmondson defended Seward and Yoder after the county attorney’s office filed criminal charges following their successful primary election campaigns. Seward was charged with one count of Unlawful Receipt of a Monetary or In-Kind Campaign Contribution from a Corporation, a serious misdemeanor. Yoder was charged with Unlawful Transfer of Campaign Funds, a serious misdemeanor.
Both went to court in separate trials and were found not guilty. In Yoder’s case, the jury reached a decision in 15 minutes. The jury’s decision in Seward’s case was sealed until Yoder’s trial was completed. Judge Joel Yates also decided that the state would pay for court costs.