The unprecedented claims filed against Maricopa County by its own top officials have raised fascinating and difficult questions about potential conflicts of interest.
We're not sure this makes it any less difficult:
Steven LaMar, a Cave Creek town councilman, is one of the lawyers hired to represent county interests in the lawsuits and claims filed by county officials and employees. As mentioned in our previous post today, he's one of several lawyers hired to represent various officials and entities. LaMar's job is to defend Maricopa County.
Of course, the five people who represent Maricopa County as a governmental entity are the county supervisors -- two of whom have filed claims or lawsuits.
One way to look at the situation: If LaMar wins for the county, two of the county's elected representatives will be losers. But if he loses for the county, two Supervisors win.
Which outcome would be better for LaMar's career? A better question: Which outcome would be better for the Town of Cave Creek, which is represented by LaMar and six other council members?
If LaMar manages to ensure that Stapley and Wilcox get nothing, would Cave Creek suffer if it has pending issues before the Board of Supervisors? Would Stapley and Wilcox be forced to abstain from voting on any Cave Creek issue in the future, whatever the outcome?
LaMar's an experienced private-practice attorney who's spent the last decade or so as a senior litigator for the Arizona Attorney General's Office. We don't know him and wouldn't dream of accusing him of anything improper. But we felt compelled to ask LaMar what he thinks of our questions.
He didn't want to spend much time with us, saying he felt uncomfortable speaking for the county to a reporter. But he chose to comment on our suggestion that maybe he'd better off financially, in the long run, if he took a dive on this one.
"I haven't done any work for Maricopa County," he says. "I don't have any intention of using this for personal gain."
He chuckles and adds: "I'm not at the start of my career."
Lamar says he believes it's possible to have a fair playing field, and that he'll defend the county to the best of his ability.
"The county's interests are separate from the interests of the individual defendants," he says.
While that's true, it could be argued that the interests of defendants like Wilcox and Stapley conflict with the best interests of the county.
While the claims by the defendants clearly have merit, so does the idea that county taxpayers need to be protected.
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