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County Notes: Supervisors’ End-Around the Judge

ON MONDAY, the Supervisors were scheduled to discuss a premature item placed on the Board’s agenda by County Counsel Christian Curtis proposing to appoint an outside legal outfit from San Francisco as Sheriff Kendall’s “conflict attorney” at between $275 and $300 per hour. The three advisory “services” to be provided (according to Curtis) are advice on computer system consolidation, whether the Sheriff is personally liable for budget overruns, and one which appears to require approval by County Counsel before the Sheriff can even consult with the attorney.

The fact that Mr. Curtis has put the first two items — computer consolidation and personal liability for overruns — on the list of subjects demonstrates that the issues are not resolved, that there is a clear conflict (created by the CEO and County Counsel), despite the Board’s half-assed attempts to address them since the issues first arose and Kendall went to Judge Moorman last summer. (Do the CEO and County Counsel even pay any attention to the Supervisors?)

Besides being high- and under-handed, this sneaky attempt to pre-empt judge Moorman and the Sheriff by trying to limit these issues and impose restrictions buried in legalese under reams of contractual boiler plate, they are a clear indication why Sheriff Kendall wants his own attorney. 

If the Board somehow approves this item on Monday, they’ll just be digging themselves further in the pointless hole they’ve already dug. And Sheriff Kendall will be able to use this item as more evidence that he needs a truly independent legal advisor. It also seems contemptuous of Judge Moorman who has still not issued her ruling on the case.

After all, according to the transcript of the August 23, 2021 ex parte hearing on the case Judge Moorman and County Counsel Curtis agreed that the Judge is the authority to decide which attorney Kendall will get, not Curtis:

Moorman: “…Has the board changed its position and now is saying, Well, we really don't think there's a conflict of interest as that meaning is used within the Rules of Professional Conduct, but — so there's a disagreement; that's where I see a disagreement. But you want me to know that your client is willing to supply the sheriff with counsel of the county's choosing or the board of supervisors' choosing to give· him some advice. Is that where we are?”

Curtis: “I think that more or less sums it up, Your Honor.”

HOW IN THE HELL did this non-issue get so bizarre?


The Supervisors unanimously approved the appointment of an LA law firm for the Sheriff on Monday, despite the fact that the Sheriff wasn’t even in the County at the time, nor has Judge Moorman ruled on the Sheriff’s pending request. Undersheriff Darren Brewster suggested that the item be postponed for a week so that the Sheriff could be on hand, but he was ignored.

Brewster also reminded the Board that approving the LA firm would “look like an end-around the court.” County Counsel Christian Curtis said that the action was simply a matter of following through on the Board’s previous position that they intended to appoint someone other than Duncan James of Ukiah. 

During the discussion a number of new questions and permutations of this already contorted issue arose:

Why did they proceed when Sheriff wasn’t even in town and the Judge hasn’t even released her ruling?

Since we know the Sheriff will not accept any attorney other than Duncan James, who pays for Duncan James? Will Judge Moorman order the County to pay for an attorney the Board has rejected?

Will Kendall’s principle attorney, Mr. McMullen of the Duncan James firm, file an injunction to stop the appointment of the Board’s preferred firm?

Will the Board appeal Judge Moorman’s ruling if Curtis doesn’t like it?

As several supervisors whimsically mentioned but didn’t pursue, will the Board attempt to address the underlying issues with specific agenda items? So far there seems to be some interest in that, but nobody’s been specific.

Tune in next week when Sheriff Kendall returns to find out what happens in this curiouser and curiouser non-issue. 

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