|Richmond Police Commission
Files Complaint on City Attorney with State Bar
October 29, 2004
A long-simmering dispute between the Richmond Police Commission and Acting City Attorney Everett Jenkins broke open with the news that the Police Commission has, according to the West County Times, filed a complaint against Jenkins with the State bar alleging Jenkins lied to the Commission and breached ethical rules on conflict of interest.
The once backwater Richmond City Attorney’s Office has lately become a hotbed of internal conflict with harassment complaints by an employee, charges of inefficiency (by me), hiring of high-priced contract attorneys without City Council authority, and drafting of a censure resolution (against me) that failed to garner enough support to even make it to the Council Chamber floor.
The City Attorney and the Police Commission Investigative Officer are appointed by the City Council, and the Police Commission members are appointed by the Mayor with City Council approval. Instead of taking leadership and resolving these disputes among individuals who all serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and City Council, the Council sits back and watches it like a television sitcom, seemingly entertained while our city remains in disarray. The City Council ratified their support for Jenkins by all except me voting to keep him on until at least June 2005. The Mayor ratified her support of the Police Commission by leaving them all in place and continuing to reappoint members as their terms expire. Meanwhile, all this is costing the City money and valuable time as internal wars and feuds proceed unabated.
WEST COUNTY TIMES
Complaint filed against city attorney
The Richmond Police Commission filed a complaint with the state bar against interim City Attorney Everett Jenkins, claiming he lied to the panel while giving an update on settlement of a high-profile lawsuit.
"We are forwarding you our concerns about his misconduct and violations of the State Bar Act," said an Oct. 13 letter from the commission to the bar's chief trial counsel, Mike Nisperos.
The issue arose in relation to a suit Richmond police union president Chuck Whitney brought against the city. At the time, the commission had three complaints of excessive force pending against Whitney.
In May, Jenkins told the commission "that as part of the settlement agreement, the chief of police had already agreed to withdraw said three cases in the stipulated judgment relative to this patrolman's lawsuit," the letter says.
"Everett Jenkins lied," it continued. "At a special meeting Sept. 29 ... Chief Charles Bennett said he had not agreed and in fact had adamantly refused to do so when approached about the matter."
An outraged Jenkins this week denied the commission's claims.
"I would welcome any inquiry into my actions, if that is what the state bar chooses to do," he said. "First of all, the police commission was represented by (outside attorney) Cheryl Stevens. The statements they attribute to me are not mine. We recused ourselves back in January of 2004."
Nisperos declined to comment, saying all matters related to a complaint are confidential until and unless the agency chooses to take action against a lawyer.
It could take six months for the State Bar of California, which is an arm of the state Supreme Court, to do a preliminary investigation, then contact Jenkins -- if it chooses to do so at all. Any case would take another three to six months, Nisperos said.
The commission had argued Jenkins had a conflict of interest since the city attorney's office represented both the Richmond Police Officers Association in its defense against excessive force allegations and the police commission, which was charged with investigating those allegations.
The settlement presented to the council included Bennett's agreement to drop a request he had made that the federal Department of Justice examine the police handling of the force complaints. Bennett said he knew nothing about it and had made no such agreement.
Commission member Bob Sutcliffe said Jenkins "misled the City Council when he told them Bennett had agreed to this settlement, when in fact he had not.
"When he hired Ms. Stevens, she never met with us. They took this agreement to the City Council without ever having talked to us."
"This is just very sad," Jenkins said. "(Commission members) are upset with me because we have a difference of opinion. I'm pretty straightforward, and that doesn't sit well with some."
Most complaints received by the bar involve private-practice lawyers. Nisperos said the most common complaint is that the lawyer fails to return phone calls.
"That's failing to keep a client informed," Nisperos said. "That's serious. But making false statements is something that really raises our eyebrows."
If the parties in a complaint can't come to terms in an evaluation process overseen by a judge, the matter goes to trial. If the lawyer is found culpable, he or she may face a written reproval, ethics school, retaking part of the bar exam or license suspension.
In extreme cases, the attorney could be disbarred.
"If the guy's a frequent flier, it may be all it takes," Nisperos said.