Stuart Leeds Quits Ethics Commission


POSTED: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 5:51pm

UPDATED: Thursday, December 9, 2010 - 7:45pm

Stuart Leeds says he's resigning for ethical reasons.

"We're supposed to be regulating their conduct. Ethically or not, why are they sitting at the table with us telling us how to draft our rules?" Leeds said.

Leeds argues that the Ethics Commission cannot be run independently when all legal advice comes from the County Attorney's office, an entity that the commission could potentially investigate. One ethics expert agrees.

"We had an expert from Connecticut, Robert Wechsler, an expert on ethics, an Ivy League graduate of law school and he basically says to have the County Attorney be the legal advisor to our commission when our commission's mandate is to regulate the ethical conduct of the attorney's office, is a perversion. It's a conflict of interest," Leeds said.

The Texas Attorney General says that the County Attorney of El Paso County is required to represent the El Paso County Ethics Commission in all legal matters. He also states that the El Paso County Attorney cannot be divested of his duties against his will. Local attorney Mario Gonzalez disagrees.

"It has a built in conflict of interest. No lawyer should ever attempt to represent both parties to litigation, yet in this community that's exactly the prerogative that the County Attorney's office has given to itself. The Attorney General is not the final authority. He only offers an opinion. That's why they call it an opinion. It's not the law," Gonzalez said.

Leeds says that without an outside attorney, the Ethics Commission will never be able to function as it should.

"Tomorrow night at the Ethics Commission meeting, you'll see it's a foregone conclusion that they're going to accept the Attorney General's opinion and accept the County Attorney's office as the legal advisor. And I think shame on them for doing so," Leeds said.

We talked to County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal about Stuart Leeds' resignation.

She said, "I would not give legal advice if a complaint were filed against me or anyone in my office."

"I would step aside and ensure that a lawyer outside of my office provided legal advice."

Bernal added, "State law says that the County Attorney shall provide legal advice to all county officials."

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Only a person who has never been involved with ethics commissions at any local level could disagree with Mr. Leeds observation that they exist merely as a rubber stamp for people who would like to circumvent the rules or use them for personal gain. And reading press releases does not qualify one to comment intelligently.

get that twinkle back in your eyes....You seem to have lost it! Rules, shmules you do whats right!

I remember when you you wore your first suit! You had a twinkle in your eye and you looked like you could take on the world.... Get that twinkle back Mr. Leeds you know whats right!

It doesn't take an Ivy League lawyer to ponder how else is Bernal supposed to keep herself out of hot water should an ethics issue arise. Oh wait, conflict of interest is an ethics issue! Im sure she would be quick to offer/appoint her own "outside" lawyer per "State Law" right? Its called entitlement and it comes from being the only female attorney board certified in Civil Trial Law in El Paso Texas.

Ang the corruption continues.

use spellcheck

The ethics peson is not to e associted with anyone active legal counsel to assue checks and balnces.

can anyone say spell check

Good. Mr Leeds needed to go. Don't know him from a hill of beans but it appeared he wanted to use the Ethics Commission as his own Star Chamber to investigate folks he perceived have "done him wrong." Mr Leeds has a problem obviously with authority. He can't take direction nor can he abide by rules. Perhaps he should volunteer to assist Mr Holder in the prosecution of the Guantanamo Bay terrorists.

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