Sunday, August 9, 2015

Reader chimes in on Davidson Town Attorney Rick Kline

Over the years, I've given Davidson Town Hall a fair amount of grief - OK, a tremendous amount of grief.  It's not that I am anti-government, or think town hall doesn't do anything right.  I just believe that transparency and fairness are bedrock requirements for good government.  They go hand-in-hand.  That often results in having to point out where those things may not be occurring.

I recognize that can come off as a bit negative sometimes.  My guess is that more than a few at town hall want to brush off what I have to say as nothing but the words of an annoying gadfly.

That's why the below comments from long-time reader and friend, Pam Pearson of Davidson, needed to be given a little more attention.  Pearson is an attorney herself and her comments carry more weight than anything I could say regarding Davidson's Town attorney.

"On Mr. Kline, I have related my personal experiences dealing with him on Davidson issues and the jdisrespect and lack of professionalism he showed to me and others. And that's not even addressing the matters on which he advocated legal positions that had no foundation. In fairness, I expect that his "opinions" were driven, in part, by the Town Board's policy imperatives, but that's backwards thinking for an attorney who is supposed to be advising from a legal perspective.

Here is just one example:

There is an ordinance in Davidson which purports to prohibit the docking of boats with more than 10 hp overnight at a Davidson pier. Some Davidson leaders wanted to keep Lake Davidson as passive as possible, and Mr. Kline came up with this "docking" strategy on the basis that Davidson has to issue a building permit for any dock being built in Davidson (Duke Energy first has to approve and permit any dock on Lake Davidson). But that is fuzzy thinking. The NC Wildlife Resource Commission has state-wide jurisdiction over the lakes, and has delegated some of its authority locally to the Lake Norman Marine Commission (LNMC). Together with Duke Energy, these entities have ALL the authority over what happens on Lake Davidson. But Mr. Kline erroneously told the Town Board that it could make an inter-local agreement with Mooresville (which has most of the rest of the shoreline of Lake Davidson) and try to ban boats with more than 10 hp. Many hours of town officials' and commissioners' time was spent on this issue, along with an unknown amount of money, for no good reason as the towns had no legal basis for acting. It is a lawyer's responsibility to tell her/his client the truth about the legality of proposed initiatives, which sometimes means saying "NO." Going along and telling the Town of Davidson what some town officials may have wanted to hear did not serve those officials nor the public. 

Davidson may be too small to need a full-time town attorney, but that doesn't mean it needs to employ an attorney who is in private practice which may create (as here) conflicts of interest. Other small towns in the area solve this problem by jointly retaining a town lawyer, which enables this lawyer to devote her/his practice exclusively to the representation of the municipalities. In the most recently publicized controversy regarding Mr. Kline and River Run, this situation would never have arisen had Mr. Kline not advised the River Run board, which then resulted in a conflict with his advising the Davidson Town Board on the same matter."

These were posted on Facebook regarding the agenda for the upcoming Davidson Board meeting.  They are reprinted here with her permission.

As Commissioners continue discussions on the town attorney position, they would do well to consider what Ms Pearson has to say.  We need a town attorney who will tell the board "no" when needed rather than trying to find a loophole to accomplish something that will likely wind the Town up in court - something that happens all too often here in Davidson.

Per the town clerk, no previous detailed contract with the Town Attorney is in place saying "there is no other agreements/engagement letters in writing" - meaning they've been working without a net for quite some time since Rick Kline has been in that position for 39 years.

After nearly 4 decades, let's hope they get it right.

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