Unethical actions need disciplinary actions
On Jan. 24 in the 172nd Civil District Court, Judge Floyd ordered that the City of Port Arthur must pay legal fees of $50,737 to the plaintiffs in the Edison Square lawsuit that began back in 2013.
Upon further review, it was found that attorney for plaintiffs in the case, Langston Adams, met with Port Arthur City Councilman Willie Bae Lewis on Oct. 18 and 20 of 2013 while he was a sitting city councilman. The meeting results were then shared with plaintiffs represented by Adams on October 20th. This information was confirmed and supported by documents received through an open records request by The Port Arthur News.
After hearing the above information, Judge Floyd threw out his original ruling and set a new hearing date for this past Monday, March 20. On Friday, March 17, council for both sides met in Judge Floyds chambers, and a continuance was requested.
The Supreme Court of Texas Professional Ethics Committee Published in 1992, Rule 4.02 of the “Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct” states the following:
“In representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate or cause or encourage another to communicate about the subject of the representation with a person, organization or entity of government the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer regarding the subject, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer or is authorized by law to do so.”
In short, unless the City of Port Arthur city attorney or representing counsel for the City of Port Arthur regarding the Edison Square lawsuit, gave exclusive permission to both plaintiffs attorney Langston Adams and Councilman Lewis to discuss the case, Adams is in direct violation of Rule 4.02 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.
After discussing this with two separate local attorneys it is as, if not more, unethical for a sitting city councilman who represents a local government to speak or work with an attorney on behalf of the plaintiffs filing suit against the very government entity and citizens he represents.
In the story that was published Sunday, March 19 of The Port Arthur News, Councilman Lewis stated that his actions were not deemed unethical as he has a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens.
This statement clearly shows Councilman Lewis’ misunderstanding of his position on this council.
Currently each council member is only one part of a nine-seat council. The council as a whole makes the decisions for the community and for the city manager. Individual members do not. Therefore the fiduciary responsibility is that of the entire city council. Not one council member. The Port Arthur City Council is set up this way for exactly this reason. If we were to allow one person to make decisions for the whole, why would we need a city council in the first place? Let’s just name one person “King of Port Arthur” and let them run the whole thing.
As a sitting city councilman, voted into office by the citizens of this community, we cannot stand idly by and continue to allow these types of individuals to have any form of control in our city government. Citizens should expect and demand better from their elected officials.
Although not in place now, the city of Port Arthur should have some form of recourse to handle rogue council members. The city of Houston’s city charter states that a sitting city council member can be removed from their seat and banned from being reelected in the future for committing unethical acts against the city and citizens they represent.
As the city of Port Arthur recently made a change to the city charters in May of 2016, the next one cannot be until May of 2018. However, I think this is a much-needed item to have in place to give future council members pause before acting in such a way that is detrimental to the city and its citizens.
While we sit back in our recliners this weekend, and think about our community and what it has become over the years, think about the individuals who continue to be elected and/or reelected to city council. It’s well past time to move on from the decision-making normalcy that brought us here. And it is well past time for these kind of unethical actions to go unpunished. These individuals should not be above the law and legal recourse, as you and I are not.