Monday, November 10, 2014
Rodgers City Attorney Clashes With City Hall ~by Legal Pub
What happens when a city attorney in Arkansas does not see eye to eye with the mayor? Folks in Arkansas may get an answer. The Rogers city attorney, Ben Lipscomb, has sued city leaders in Federal Court, claiming that the city broke the law by stripping him of many of his city attorney duties. (Mayor Greg Hines and city council members are defendants included in the suit.) The city denies liability and claims that the city council ordinance passed last month is lawful.
The U.S. District Court in Fayetteville may host a jury trial, as well as a bench trial to determine whether the ordinance is constitutional. A key question may be whether the ordinance unfairly singles out one person, Lipscomb. Will it be easy to determine if the city attorney was stripped of duties as “punishment?” Clearly, the September 23, 2014 Rogers City Council Ordinance appears to specifically deal with the city attorney’s duties involving proprietorial matters. Furthermore, a new staff attorney, Chris Griffin, has assumed control over many civil matters and is serving as a legal adviser to the city. These are roles exclusively of the city attorney, according to Lipscomb. Given that change has occurred, why were the changes in job duties put in place?
Lipscomb was initially elected city attorney in 1997. At the time, the duties outlined by city ordinance apparently included all civil and criminal matters. The duties also included representing the city and acting as a legal adviser on city issues. Lipscomb was recently reelected in 2010. It appears that Lipscomb was involved in a criminal investigation. Specifically, a special prosecutor, Marc McCune, apparently investigated whether Lipscomb broke any laws by using a city badge to gain entry into a VIP tent at a concert over the summer. McCune announced September 5, 2014 that Lipscomb would face no criminal charges concerning the concert incident. Yet, Mayor Hines allegedly told the news media (5 NEWS) that Lipscomb’s actions were “egregious” and “troubling.” Hines reportedly told 5 NEWS:
“The greater concern is an elected official thinking it’s OK to use his position to gain access to a restricted area for the sole purpose of obtaining a cocktail,” Hines said. “If getting a drink is so important, buy the VIP tickets.”
Qualifications of Chris Griffin do not appear to be an issue. Griffin served as the deputy city attorney from 2005 to 2008. Consequently, the issue appears to revolve around constitutionality and alleged punishment for an innocent that resulted in no charges.
All allegations remain unproven in any lawsuit until there is a determination by a court of competent jurisdiction as to the merits.