A former deputy city attorney said in court today that he didn’t see sufficient ethical separation between the civil and criminal divisions in the City Attorney’s Office.

The statement came during a hearing in which a former city official, facing criminal charges from City Attorney Mike Aguirre, is seeking to have Aguirre thrown off the case. Tom Story, who served as chief of staff to former Dick Murphy, alleges that the charges against him are an attempt to gain advantage in Aguirre’s civil suit against his employer, Sunroad Enterprises.

Rule 5-100 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct states that an attorney “shall not threaten to present criminal, administrative, or disciplinary charges to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute.”

Story attorney Pam Naughton called three witnesses this morning — including Aguirre’s lead attorney on the case, Chris Morris — and more are expected to be called this afternoon.

Former Deputy City Attorney David Miller, who was fired in February over an unrelated matter, testified that attorneys on both the civil and criminal side at least on one occasion reviewed documents together.

“I didn’t see a separation of the criminal and civil in the manner I thought it should be separated,” Miller said.

The former deputy city attorney said Aguirre was convinced that a crime had occurred in the construction of Sunroad Centrum, a 12-story building that has been deemed a safety hazard by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Miller said Aguirre had employees pull documents on Sunroad because he suspected it was involved with drug money and asked whether anyone in the city’s Development Services Department was capable of “taking a bag of money.” He said Aguirre pointed out that Story was a former aide to his one-time political nemesis, Murphy, and said Story “had to have a hand in this.”

Morris, who heads Aguirre’s criminal division, testified that he didn’t become involved in the case until about three days before a search warrant was requested in March in connection with the investigation into Story. Before that, he said, he hadn’t been involved in the civil case against Sunroad, which was filed in December.

Morris said he is cross-deputized to work on criminal and civil matters so that he can use his previous pension expertise to help the city attorney’s pension team, while also leading the criminal division. He said his designation is similar to that of former Assistant City Attorney Leslie Devaney under former City Attorney Casey Gwinn.

Story is charged with misdemeanor violations of the city’s lobbying ordinance, which forbids former city officials from lobbying the city within one year of the termination of their employment with the city.

Land-use consultant Stephen Laub was also called to testify. More witnesses are expected to testify when court reconvenes at 1:30 p.m.

Check back later for more.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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