Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ACLU: City attorney violating constitutional rights

Posted on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 11:06 AM

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington says a Spokane city attorney's attempts to prevent a private lawyer from communicating with City Council officials "is improper and should stop immediately."

In a letter written on behalf of the ACLU of Washington, Michael Kipling of the Seattle-based Kipling Group argues that Assistant City Attorney Rocco "Rocky" Treppiedi violated the constitutional rights of Breean Beggs, a private lawyer, by telling him in a June letter to "cease immediately any and all contact with the City’s representatives, including elected officials … [or] I will have little choice but to forward this matter to the Washington State Bar Association as a formal complaint."

"The ACLU-WA is very concerned about this conduct because we believe Mr. Beggs has a constitutional right to communicate with elected officials, under both the U.S. and Washington Constitutions," Kipling's letter reads.

The letter was sent to City Attorney Howard Delany and forwarded to Treppiedi, Beggs, City Council legal advisor Mike Piccolo, Mayor Mary Verner and all City Council members. It goes on to cite Washington's Rules of Professional Conduct, an opinion published in Bar News by the former Chief Disciplinary Counsel for the Washington State Bar, the state and federal constitutions and case law to support the ACLU's position.

The original correspondence between Treppiedi and Beggs was first reported in an Inlander story, in which various City Council members expressed concern with Treppiedi's actions against Beggs. The city's official response said it stood behind Treppiedi's letters to Beggs.

Treppiedi, a longtime city attorney who works on cases involving law enforcement, is credited with crafting the city's disputed records policies, also recently detailed in The Inlander.

Treppiedi cited Beggs' involvement in the recent discussion over the investigative power of the police ombudsman as his reason for trying to prevent him from talking with elected public officials.

"On behalf of the ACLU-WA," Kipling writes, "I ask that you carefully review the authorities cited herein and instruct Mr. Treppiedi and the other attorneys in your office that they should immediately stop any efforts to preclude communications between Mr. Beggs (or any other person) and the City Council members."

Check Bloglander for continuing updates on this story.

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