City council members voted 5-1 to override a veto Bodker issued last week against a waiver revoking attorney-client privilege so city attorneys, and other lawyers who represented the city at any point in time, could talk freely with investigators the city council hired from the law firm of Wilson, Morton and Downs.
Councilwoman Kelly Stewart was the sole opposing vote, without commenting on the matter. Bodker recused himself from the discussion and vote as he is the subject of the investigation.
The mayor’s reasoning for the veto was he believed the waiver was too broad, open-ended and set a dangerous precedent because it did not specify what confidential matters would be opened for discussion with investigators.
Attorney Bob Wilson of Wilson, Morton and Downs said it can be argued that council is not exactly waiving attorney-client privilege in the traditional sense but rather just authorizing different attorneys working for the city to talk to each other.
“To conduct a thorough, fair and appropriate investigation, you have to have information,” Wilson said. “There are people we need to talk to, and lawyers are always reluctant to talk. Unless you grant the waiver of the privilege for this limited and sole purpose … then it inhibits our ability to get information.”
Prior to the vote to override the veto, Bodker asked council members if they would consider seeking additional outside counsel to give advice on the impact of attorney-client privilege waivers, but they declined.
In their work session Monday prior to the city council meeting, the mayor and council members discussed amending the city’s ethics ordinance to allow citizens serving on city boards, committees or commissions the opportunity to speak before city council, or other boards, about issues unrelated to the board on which they serve.
Stewart requested council members consider the amendment, which was brought to them by the chairman of the city’s planning commission, Steve Broadbent. Broadbent was present at the July 8 city council meeting and said he was advised by the city attorney not to share his opinions of the investigation during the public comment section of the meeting due to his position on the planning commission.
Stewart advised council members to step back from the issue of the investigation and consider if it is right to restrict someone from speaking before council just because they happen to serve on a city board or commission. Bodker supported the proposed change, but the other council members did not.
“I hesitate to make any changes at the request of someone who, it is clear to me, wants to talk about the investigation,” said Councilwoman Bev Miller.
Councilman Brad Raffensperger said there has never been a complaint about the ethics ordinance in more than five years. He suggested looking into strengthening the ethics ordinance by trying to do away with divided loyalties.