Reed may be first city attorney ever to run for mayor in Ky.
Published 6:57 am Saturday, February 10, 2018
STANFORD — Lincoln County, often referred to as the “county of firsts,” may be able to add another first to the list, as Stanford’s city attorney might be the first ever person holding that position to run for mayor.
“There are many instances throughout the state in which city employees have run for the mayoral seat. However, it appears to be an infrequent occurrence,” said Morgan Sprague, Kentucky League of Cities’ director of municipal law and training. “In fact, this may be the first time a city attorney has run.”
This was news to Stanford City Attorney Christopher Reed.
“I had never heard that,” he said.
Reed said it makes him proud to be the first, but it’s also a slight disappointment.
“It makes me a little sad that there aren’t more professionals in my line of work trying to do more for their local government,” he said.
Reed said his decision to file for the mayoral seat is rooted in his desire to do more for Stanford than what he can accomplish as the city attorney.
“What I do now is mostly in the background and I feel like I can get more done for Stanford if I take this next step,” he said.
While the deadline to file for the non-partisan race isn’t until August, Reed turned his paperwork into the Lincoln County Clerk’s Office soon after the window to file opened in November.
Potential conflict of interest
Reed is seeking election to the seat currently held by Mayor Eddie Carter, who has filed seeking reelection. In his job as city attorney, Reed advises city officials, including Carter, on legal matters. While Reed was unaware that he could be the first sitting city attorney to file for mayor, he knew that the situation could be perceived as creating a potential conflict of interest.
“In school, especially law school, they teach you to prepare for any kind of conflict that could come up. So before I even decided to run, I had an informal ethics opinion prepared. The state bar association does a free one,” Reed said.
He’s still waiting to receive a copy of the opinion but said he knows the basic contents of the letter.
“Basically, it guides you to Rule 1.7, which talks about conflict of interest for clients,” Reed said. “What most people don’t understand is, as city attorney I represent the city, not its individual officers or employees.”
Reed said cities are like “legal people.”
“Just like a corporation, they can enter into contracts. They can, I always joke, get married, in a sense, because they can merge with other cities or other local governments to become one entity,” he said. “They can own land, sell land, same as any person. The only thing they (cities) can’t do is vote.”
The rule Reed referred to is included in the Kentucky Bar Association’s Rules of the Supreme Court of Kentucky.
According to SCR 3.130 (1.7), a concurrent conflict of interest exists if: representation of one client will be directly harmful to another client; there is a significant risk that representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person; or by a personal interest of the lawyer.
The Supreme Court commentary included underneath Rule 1.7 breaks down multiple types of conflicts of interest including directly adverse, material limitation and personal conflicts of interest.
“(8) Even when there is no direct adverseness, a conflict of interest exists if there is a significant risk that a lawyer’s ability to consider, recommend or carry out an appropriate course of action for the client will be materially limited as a result of the lawyer’s other responsibilities or interests,” the commentary states.
“…the mere possibility of subsequent harm does not itself require disclosure and consent,” the commentary continues. “The critical questions are the likelihood that a difference in interests will eventuate and, if it does, whether it will materially interfere with the lawyer’s independent professional judgement in considering alternatives or foreclose courses of action that reasonably should be pursued on behalf of the client.”
When asked if he foresees any current or future conflicts of interest arising as he continues to legally represent the city and run for the mayor’s seat, Reed said there are no instances that come to mind.
It’s something that Mayor Carter, has considered, as well.
“I did, myself personally, talk to an attorney about it,” Carter said. “I just want to be fair and give him (Reed) the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, he’s got a right to run like anybody else.”
However, the potential for conflict of interest exists, he said.
“It is an awkward situation, but I’m just going to play it by ear,” he said. “I like Chris (Reed) and we get along, so, we’ll just have to see.”
While Reed said no one has expressed any concern to him about his bid for the mayor’s seat, Carter said some city residents have talked to him about the potential for conflict of interest.
“I’ve had some people in the community here that have said maybe it’s a conflict of interest, but, you know, like I said, I want to be positive here and give him the benefit of the doubt,” Carter said.
It’s a long time until November, he said, but for now, he believes if a conflict of interest does arise, Reed will make it known and address it in the appropriate manner.