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Mayor won't allow attorney debate

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By David Giuliani

Two Las Vegas City Council members wanted the city to consider the idea of having an in-house city attorney.

But Mayor Tony Marquez apparently doesn’t want to talk about it.

The members, Andrew Feldman and Diane Moore, requested that the attorney issue be on the agenda for next week’s council meeting. But the mayor rejected their request late last week.  

Marquez didn’t return a message for comment.

Since March 2008, Santa Fe attorney Carlos Quiñones has served as the city’s interim attorney on a contractual basis. He works in Santa Fe and attends council meetings.

Before Quiñones, the city had an in-house attorney for a number of years — the last being Matt Sandoval, now a district judge.

Feldman said Sandoval’s annual salary amounted to around $80,000, while the city spent $147,000 for that budget item last year. He also said it’s much better to have an attorney inside City Hall, available to answer city employees’ legal questions.

“We need someone there full time. He (Quiñones) lives in Santa Fe,” Feldman said.

Feldman said the council generally agreed at a budget hearing earlier this year that the city should hire an in-house attorney. But when Moore questioned City Manager Timothy Dodge at a recent meeting about the issue, Dodge said the city wasn’t advertising for the attorney’s position.

Feldman and Moore have had their differences with Quiñones, but in an interview, Feldman declined to comment on the attorney’s performance.

At an August council meeting, Quiñones chastised both Feldman and Moore on different issues. The attorney told Feldman that he broke the law when he announced a utilities audit had cleared him of Quiñones’ allegations that a councilman, later identified as Feldman, may have committed corruption.

Quiñones said state law barred Feldman from releasing any information about the audit until the state auditor released it.

As for Moore, Quiñones told her that she violated policy at a previous meeting by asking him for a legal opinion. At the earlier meeting, Quiñones told her that only the city manager or the council majority could seek an opinion. So City Manager Dodge requested the opinion in Moore’s place. Quiñones didn’t say anything at the time.

But at the later meeting, he said it was inappropriate for Moore to hand off the opinion to the city manager. He added that it was ironic that Moore was requesting an expensive opinion when she repeatedly criticized mounting legal and consultant costs.

Earlier this year, Quiñones said at a council meeting that at least one of the members couldn’t be trusted because e-mails between the mayor and members had appeared in the Optic. He said council ethics prohibited members from releasing such information.

That was after the city had rejected the Optic’s requests for the e-mails. The newspaper filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office, and the AG determined that the e-mails were subject to public inspection.

So the city released the e-mails that Quiñones had advised to keep secret.