Concerns Over Possible Conflict Of Interest In City Attorney's Office

Concerns were expressed at Tuesday's Colorado Springs City Council meeting about a possible conflict of interest between the city attorney and the mayor's office.

Some folks, including Council Member Helen Collins, said they couldn't support the approval of the new city attorney, Wynetta Massey, because of the position's salary. Massey would be getting paid $192,276 a year.

Council President Keith King told 11 News he thinks it's a fair number.

"She's been with the city over 20 some years so she's very qualified, and so I think her compensation is in line with what the compensation she'd be getting if she was working elsewhere or working in a private practice," he said.

Others brought up concerns about the city's charter itself.

According to the Springs City Charter, the mayor is in charge of filling the position of the city attorney. Some citizens, including some council members, say that could be problematic.

The position does have to be approved by City Council but Council Member Joel Miller said he'd like to see such a powerful position elected by the public as opposed to being appointed by the mayor.

During the public hearing others spoke out about the potential conflict of interest.

"He or she, in this case, must please the mayor or the mayor can fire the city attorney. That is a real issue because it puts that person in a bind if they really have a different legal opinion but they don't want to get fired," said Kanda Calef with the Business Chamber of Southern Colorado.

Calef tells 11 News she's been concerned about the balance of power issue since last year when she met with City Council and Mayor Bach to change the charter. She said those efforts have not been successful.

The approval of Massey as city attorney passed in a 6-2 vote. Miller and Collins were the "no" votes. Council Member Gaebler was absent.

Many of the council members who supported the position spoke to Massey's professionalism and said they believe she would act ethically while serving the city.