The Morning Report
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City Attorney Mike Aguirre and two of his deputies continued the defense of his office’s ethical standards in court today, saying that a “wall” separates attorneys working for the criminal and civil branches in order to avoid a conflict like the one alleged by Sunroad Enterprises executive Tom Story.
Sitting on the stand as a witness, Aguirre said one of his criminal investigators advised him that Story probably broke the lobbying rule. The notification came in midst of Aguirre’s civil case pursuing the removal the top two floors of Sunroad’s controversial office building. But Aguirre said the criminal and civil wings never worked in concert.
“When she came to me with the specifics, I told her to look into it,” Aguirre said. After that discussion, Aguirre said, his criminal attorneys approached him again to recommend that the city file charges soon because it was within days of the expiration of the statute of limitations.
“When I came back, the consensus of the group was to we needed to file immediately,” he said.
Story claims Aguirre is trying to leverage the criminal complaint against him in order to gain an advantage in the city’s civil lawsuit against his employer.
If Superior Court Judge Michael Wellington agrees that Aguirre is conflicted, the city attorney could be disqualified from charging Story with violating the city’s lobbying ordinance.
Story also entered an official plea of “not guilty” Tuesday. He is charged with breaking a law preventing former city officials from lobbying within one year of departing City Hall. Trial is set to begin June 7 if Aguirre survives the disqualification effort.
Story is also alleging that Aguirre is biased in his prosecution because Story served as chief of staff to former Mayor Dick Murphy, a political enemy of Aguirre’s. The city attorney said he was largely unfamiliar with Story and harbored no ill feelings prior to filing misdemeanor charges against him in early April.
“We didn’t work with each other and I didn’t really know who Tom Story was,” Aguirre said.
Deputy City Attorneys Carmen Brock and Diane Silva-Martinez also took the stand today, outlining the work performed by the civil and criminal divisions, respectively. Attorneys for the city tried to use each of their colleagues to underscore the separation of their work.
Brock, who is heading the civil lawsuit against Sunroad, told the court, “I’m not concerned with Tom Story: He’s not relevant to my case.”
Silva-Martinez said that the decision to pursue criminal charges against Story was made independently, and that “it was articulated at various meetings that we be cautioned to not share any information” with the civil effort.
The case against Aguirre’s office is expected to resume Thursday at 1:30 p.m., when attorneys for both sides make oral arguments.