An honest opinion
Ryan Summerlin January 21, 2013
I have had a number of exchanges with city critic Maurice Emmer in the newspapers because at times I believe the inaccuracies and misrepresentations in his letters should not be left to stand without response. I have to acknowledge, however, that at other times I have not responded to these inaccuracies and misrepresentations because I believe the community grows weary of the exchanges. His latest letter to the paper regarding my opinion that a term-limited mayor may run for council is an attack that demands a response.
Emmer, of course, is free to disagree with my opinion and analysis. Attorneys give advice based on experience, research and knowledge. I have practiced law in this community for 33 years and have been involved in governmental law for much of that time. I do not guarantee an opinion or an outcome in litigation, and no reasonable attorney can or should. Courts make decisions. Attorneys express opinions, and Emmer is entitled to express his opinions.
To suggest, however, that any of my opinions have ever been anything other than legal advice or are given without properly considering the issue at hand is insulting at best (“Advice worth giving?” Letters, Jan. 18, The Aspen Times). To suggest that I or any city staff member does not give “honest advice” to the City Council not only attacks our honesty; it also attacks our professional integrity. And it attacks the mayor and council. Never once has the mayor or any City Council member asked me to give them anything but an honest opinion. I have always supported civility in public discourse; but such discourse is difficult when faced with insults and disparagement without basis.
For those interested in the legal advice I gave to the City Council, please read my memo at www.aspenpitkin.com on the attorney’s page. Emmer’s letter fails to acknowledge that my opinion cited identical conclusions reached by John Worcester, the former city attorney, the city of Longmont, the city and county of Denver and the Colorado Municipal League. I also cited a contrary decision reached by the town of Basalt and why that decision could be distinguished. I will admit that I, Worcester and the attorneys for the city of Longmont, the city and county of Denver and the Colorado Municipal League might all be wrong. But I believe we have expressed our opinions based on logical and professional analysis, and I stand by my opinion.
Emmer’s failure to fully disclose all facts and circumstances involving his criticisms of the city in this letter are not limited to term limits. In attacking the city’s decision regarding the bag ban and the fact that the city is being sued by a “public interest group,” Emmer fails to mention that he was one of only two local residents who are listed in the litigation as members of this “public interest group.”
Finally, advice of an attorney in the public sector, as it is in private sector, is confidential and privileged, and the privilege is owned by the client, not the attorney. The city does not hide behind attorney-client privilege. It is a right that it exercises in the best interest of the community. In the case of term limits, the City Council, the owner of the privilege, voted to release to the public the memo referenced above.
I stand by the opinions and welcome any questions about them. You can contact me at 970-920-5108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
James R. True