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Las Vegas city attorney resigns

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By David Giuliani

Las Vegas’ interim city attorney, Carlos Quinones, will resign Jan. 1 after more than a year and a half with the city, officials announced this week.

Two City Council members said Quiñones’ departure was long overdue, while other officials praised the attorney’s service.

“Carlos Quiñones has been an exceptional city attorney, and his departure will obviously be a big loss to the city," Mayor Tony Marquez said in a statement. “He never viewed his position as working to please the mayor and council. He constantly strived to provide his best advice and do the right thing.”

A city press release stated that the Santa Fe-based Quiñones wanted to give more of his time to his private practice and family. The mayor said in a statement that Quiñones had been contemplating leaving as city attorney for about a year.

Both Quiñones and Marquez didn’t return calls for comment.

Councilman Morris Madrid said he voted against Quiñones’ appointment in March 2008 because the mayor hadn’t presented any information on the attorney. But he said he had come to respect Quiñones.

“Since he’s been with the city, he’s acted independently and courageously. That (attorney’s) seat gets hot all the time. He has disagreed with every one of us and stood his ground. He’s earned my respect as a professional,” Madrid said.

Councilman Cruz Roybal said he didn’t have any comment on Quiñones other than to say that attorneys “do what they think they have to do.”

Council members Andrew Feldman and Diane Moore, who have clashed with Quiñones, said his resignation is overdue. They both said the attorney was acting on behalf of the mayor, not the city government as a whole.

“He was carrying out the mayor’s agenda. That’s not necessarily the best thing for the city,” Feldman said.

Madrid, Feldman and Moore said they would prefer the city hire an in-house attorney, as it did for a number of years before the city entered a contract with Quiñones.

Madrid said he would recommend the city enter a short-term contract with an attorney until the municipal election in March. After that, the city may want to open up a search process for a new permanent attorney, he said.

A few months ago, Quiñones accused both Feldman and Moore of violating rules.

After Feldman had announced that an audit had cleared him of allegations that he improperly adjusted utility bills, Quiñones accused Feldman of breaking state law by releasing any information about the audit before it was officially released. The audit did, in fact, clear Feldman.

As for Moore, Quiñones said she broke council rules by requesting a legal opinion from his office. He said she needed a council majority. But City Manager Timothy Dodge later noted that the rules didn’t specifically address a councilman’s request for an opinion from the city attorney, only requests for advice from outside attorneys.

Earlier this year, the city followed Quiñones’ advice not to release to the Optic copies of e-mails between a quorum of council members. When the Optic reported that the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government denounced the city’s decision, the attorney told an Optic reporter that the story containing the criticism was “full of s---.”

Later, the state attorney general sided with the Optic and recommended the city release the e-mails, advice the city followed. The newspaper, though, had already received the e-mails from another source.

After the AG’s opinion, Quiñones asked the council in a memo about what the city should do about the unauthorized release of the e-mails. He said the “improper” release demonstrated that someone on the council couldn’t be trusted.

The council didn’t publicly answer Quiñones’ memo