Conflict of interest (February 20, 2017)

There is one aspect of James Belna’s excellent presentation about the parallels between Claremont and Apple Valley regarding eminent domain water system takeover not mentioned in your coverage of the event, nor addressed by Town Manager Frank Robinson or by Town Attorney Thomas Rice: The built-in conflict of interest in each of these cases (Claremont resident talks [about] avoiding ‘disaster’ in Apple Valley, Daily Press, February 20, 2017).

As Belna pointed out, for both Claremont and Apple Valley, the city attorney is from the law firm of Best Best & Krieger (BB&K). The takeover policy advisors are from BB&K. The litigators are also from BB&K. Thus, the lawyers who are paid to provide advice to town leaders are also the ones those advisors recommend to litigate the case. Should there be a need to appeal an adverse decision, as there was in Claremont, BB&K makes even more money. That means that all aspects of both the proposed and actual litigation — including the reasonableness of the fees and expenses for doing this work — are overseen by attorneys employed by the firm doing the billing.

The only persons who do not have a seat at the table are the taxpayers and ratepayers who must ultimately provide the money to pay these millions of dollars in legal fees and billings. Regardless of the outcome, taxpayers and ratepayers lose.

So when Town Attorney Rice assures us that Belna’s closely-reasoned position is absolute nonsense, and Town Manager Robinson assures us that the two seemingly identical situations are somehow dissimilar, they are each supporting the position of the only group that stands to gain from these continuing catastrophes: The attorneys.

Greg Raven is Co-Chair of Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, and is concerned about quality of life issues.

Published: Daily Press, February 28, 2017

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