Attorney grievance panel asked to investigate city of Detroit’s top lawyer

Detroit – The head of a city surveillance agency charged with detecting waste, fraud and corruption has asked the Attorney General’s Appeals Board to investigate Detroit’s chief attorney for alleging his office “improperly interfered with our investigation.”

Detroit Inspector General Ellen Ha on Wednesdaywhat she called a cross-country skierConflict of interestDispute between Has’s office and the office of Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia during Wednesday’s formal meeting of Detroit City Council.

“We believe that the Company’s attorney is improperly interfering with our investigation by providing legal advice and representation to senior city officials and employees, despite the blatant conflict of interest under the pretext of protecting officials and employees from the office, The General Inspector is threatened by lawyers from the legal department, “Ha told the council members.

“What is at stake here is what kind of Inspector General the city should have? The one who acts under the Charter as the independent control over elected or appointed public officials, city employees and contractors, or whoever likes to put off responsibilities and powers overshadowed by the application deadline, fear of doing their job as required by the Charter. “

Ha said her office filed a complaint with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission for investigation to indicate that “the corporate advisor has a serious conflict of interest violation.”

But Chuck Raimi, an attorney in the city’s legal department, defended Garcia and the law firm, arguing that Ha’s allegations were “worrying” and “worrying”.

“We have not interfered in any way, shape or form in any OIG investigation,” said Raimi.

Garcia attended the meeting later Wednesday morning to defend his actions and said he looks forward to any lawsuit that will resolve the dispute.

“I’m not interested in a solution that means relinquishing my responsibilities,” he said. “As Corporation Counsel, I have a responsibility to assist employees with legal matters that arise from their work for the city, as stated in the Articles of Association.

Lawrence Garcia

“Surely an investigation or questioning by the OIG only happens to municipal employees because they are employees of the city. as Ms. Ha asked, “he added.” No, I am ready to help these people … I will stick to this policy until the bitter end. “

The Attorney Grievance Commission is unable to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation unless referred to the Attorney Discipline Board for action, said Michael Goetz, the commission’s complaint administrator, told The Detroit News on Wednesday.

A lawyer employed by the commission examines and investigates complaints before forwarding the results and recommendations to Goetz, who then submits this report to the nine-member commission. Investigations can take anywhere from a month to a year, and the commission typically receives 60 to 65 complaints per month to investigate, Goetz noted.

The Commission’s decision to forward the complaint to the Legal Disciplinary Board will decide whether the complaint will be made public, Goetz said.

“It becomes a public record once a formal complaint is filed with the board,” he said.

General Member Janee Ayers, who was beaten in her bid for another term in Tuesday’s general election, said during Wednesday’s discussion after a brief discussion about whether the dispute would be more appropriate, “this whole thing is messy” and ” it is ridiculous”. for a closed session of Councilors Ha and Garcia.

“We cannot try to silence attorney Raimi when attorney Ha put all of this in the foreground,” Ayers said. “At this point, whatever needs to be discussed, let’s discuss whether it’s public, private, or otherwise. I’m actually ashamed of how this is going right now.”

Councilor Scott Benson suggested that an arbitrator be brought in to help resolve what he believes has become “office bashing between the two sides”.

“I hope to move to this place and end this conversation quickly,” said Benson.

Councilor Raquel Castañeda-López disagreed, saying the matter should be debated in a public forum, Ha said “I admire your courage” noting that too often women of color are minimized.

“I think this is incredibly disrespectful and I think it is dangerous … doing this personally undermines the fact that it is a structural problem and a question of how our charter is shaped,” said Castañeda-López.

Ha noted that the city council had already approved $ 100,000 to cover the cost of the outside attorney Ha said is required to represent her office on the matter. Her office, she said, has already spent some of those funds, but she hopes not to spend much more.

“It’s really worrying that we had to bring in outside consultants so I could do my job,” said Ha.

“The question here is whether the Office of Inspector General is an independent agency. I’m the Inspector General of the City of Detroit and if anyone has problems with my behavior, that I’m actually destroying the city, that I’m actually abusing my authority, please remove me because that’s what the Charter requires, “she said.

Ha said she made numerous requests to meet with Garcia about the concerns. But Ha and her lawyer Julie Porter said during the meeting on Wednesday that he had refused to meet so far, Porter said.

In response to Porter’s claim, Raimi noted that Porter had set a deadline and made it clear that a complaint would be filed if the Legal Department disagreed with her position.

“I guess they invited us to meet, but their position was very clear; either you capitulate within a few days or we go to the complaints committee, ”said Raimi. “We didn’t see it as an invitation in good faith. We saw it as a blatant threat for what it was.”

Staff writer Beth LeBlanc contributed to this.

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