Representing Kaysville citizens group, county a conflict of interest for attorney?

Sep 25 2011 - 10:52pm

FARMINGTON -- Don Redd, the lead attorney for a Kaysville citizens group that filed legal action against the city and Davis County over thwarted ballot initiatives, will receive $116,699 from Davis County in 2011 for work as a contract public defender.

The fact that Redd is receiving compensation from the same county he is challenging in court has raised questions of a possible conflict of interest, but has not resulted in termination of his three-year contract with the county.

"The question of a possible conflict of interest was raised," Redd told the Standard-Examiner on Friday.

"Laymen may see it as being in opposition to the county, when in fact it is representing some citizens in the county."

Redd is providing pro bono work for Kaysville Citizens for Responsible Government in a suit the group filed in 2nd District Court against Davis County Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings, Davis County, Kaysville City Recorder Linda Ross and Kaysville city.

The suit stems from the citizens group's failed effort to place three initiatives proposing changes to city government on the city's Nov. 8 municipal ballot.

The group claims the county and Kaysville city made errors in disqualifying signatures on petitions that would have placed the initiatives on the ballot.

The only compensation Redd has requested is that the defendants, Kaysville city and the county, pay his attorney fees in the event the citizens group is successful in the suit.

Redd said the county asked him if there was a conflict of interest in representing the citizens group, and he told them absolutely not, because he is an independent contractor and contests the county on a regular basis in defending clients it is trying to prosecute.

"I go to court every week and take positions opposite of the county employees. We battle with each other. So we have these differences of legal positions," Redd said. "This didn't seem to me to be any different than that."

In hindsight, Redd said, he should have contacted the county before taking the case. He said he has since apologized for not doing that.

"I moved too fast. I should have foreseen the consternation," said Redd, a Layton-based attorney who has been practicing law for 35 years. "I thought it would not be an issue."

Steve Rawlings, named in the suit, declined to comment on Redd's involvement because the case against the county is pending.

Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt said, "I was unaware that Mr. Redd had a continuing contract with Davis County. Regardless, it has no bearing on the city's position or the facts of the case."

Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs said county leaders were surprised to find Redd was representing a group suing the county.

Upon learning Redd was representing the Kaysville group, the commission sought to understand if there was a conflict of interest, Downs said.

Whereas Redd is a contract employee, not a county employee, Downs said, and on information and counsel the commission received, Redd's contract as a public defender remains in place.

That contract expires Dec. 31, she said.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, son of Steve Rawlings, and Chief Civil Deputy Bill McGuire provided the following statement: "The advice given to the county commission by our office was that, under the terms of (Redd's public defender) contract, the county had the right and ability, just as Don Redd has, to terminate the contract if they choose. The call was up to (the commission) as the legislative body."

According to the language in the agreement Redd has with the county, "either party may terminate the agreement without cause by giving the other party a 60-day written notice."

One individual who views Redd's service as a conflict of interest is Margaret Brough, co-founder of Kaysville Citizens for Responsible Government.

Brough said she was unaware Redd was receiving compensation from the county until contacted by the Standard-Examiner.

"It seems like a heck of a conflict of interest," she said.

There are three other attorneys working the case for the group, Brough said, "but Don Redd was the head honcho."

One of the co-counsels representing the citizens group is Dan Shumway, who is receiving $73,158 from the county in 2011 for public defender work.

Richard Lenz, a petitioner in the complaint against Kaysville and Davis County and a member of the Kaysville citizens group, said Redd did divulge to him that he had an existing contract with the county and he does not view Redd's participation as a conflict.

"First and foremost, we saw no reason to be concerned, because the work (Redd) has done for the county is in no way related," Lenz said. "I think (Redd) put himself in some jeopardy by taking this on."

Redd said he is confident he will be treated fairly by the commission when its considers renewing his public defender contract.

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