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City Attorney Mike Aguirre took the stand today in the final minutes of a day in which his office’s policies stood front and center during the criminal prosecution of Tom Story, a one-time top aide to former Mayor Dick Murphy.
Throughout the hearing, Story defense attorney Pam Naughton questioned five current or former members of Aguirre’s staff on the relationship between his office’s civil and criminal divisions in an attempt to show the office improperly mixed the two in Story’s prosecution and a civil case against his employer, Sunroad Enterprises.
The day ended with Naughton beginning her questioning of Aguirre; she attempted to prove that the city attorney had a bias against Story because of his connection to Murphy. She asked the city attorney if, during the 2004 campaign, he had supported Murphy’s opponent. Aguirre said he didn’t — although he is sympathetic to Councilwoman Donna Frye, he didn’t support her officially because he was engaged in his own campaign.
Naughton then asked if Aguirre, a bitter political enemy of the former mayor, had ever had “any antagonizing moments with Mr. Murphy.”
“Yes,” Aguirre responded.
The city attorney will continue on the stand tomorrow, when Story will be formally arraigned on charges that he committed misdemeanor violations of city law by improperly lobbying within a year of leaving the city’s employ.
Story contends that Aguirre should be disqualified from the case because he violated a code of professional conduct that forbids attorneys from using criminal prosecutions to influence a civil complaint. Aguirre sued Sunroad in December over the company’s construction of a 12-story building that the Federal Aviation Administration has deemed a hazard because of its proximity to Montgomery Field.
Naughton used e-mails and testimony to note that officials from the civil and criminal units of the City Attorney’s Office had at times exchanged communications and documents in the Sunroad case.
Criminal investigator Kim Urie said she was told by Aguirre in January to investigate the Sunroad project — but no specific aspect of it. After that, Urie said she sat in on some meetings with the civil side to learn about the case.
She said that as soon as it became clear criminal charges might be brought, she stopped going to those meetings.
Fellow criminal investigator Barry Bruins testified that he had received interview notes from one of the office’s civil investigators, but that the information flow was “one way.”
Click here for the summary of the morning court session.
Judge Michael Wellington pointed out that, on its face, there is nothing wrong with an office bringing dual criminal and civil cases on a related subject. The question in this case is whether something went terribly wrong, he said.
The judge isn’t expected to make a ruling on the disqualification immediately.