Steven LaMar, Cave Creek Councilman, Dumped as Lawyer for Maricopa County Amid Criticism in Mary Rose Wilcox Claim
Image: http://fortheloveofcavecreek.blogspot.com Steven LaMar, Cave Creek councilman and former attorney for Maricopa County defending against the Mary Rose Wilcox lawsuit.
Maricopa County has dumped Cave Creek Councilman Steven LaMar following his failure to convince a federal judge that a $975,000 payment to Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox might need further authorization.
LaMar was appointed to defend the county in late 2010 against the claims and subsequent lawsuits by county employees, former judges and Supervisors Wilcox and Don Stapley.
The lawsuits arose from the unethical actions of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in their politically motivated, incompetent attempted prosecutions of the officials on trumped-up charges. Thomas was disbarred last month along with one of his top lieutenants, Lisa Aubuchon, by the Arizona Supreme Court following a lengthy series of disciplinary hearings.
The new lawyers for Maricopa County in the lawsuits are Jeffrey Leonard, Sharon Shively, Helen Holden and Daniel Mestaz of the law firm of Sacks Tierney P.A.
LaMar wouldn't elaborate on why he didn't argue in federal court that a state law concerning claims to County Supervisors applies in the Mary Rose Wilcox case.
In December of 2010, we predicted LaMar might take a dive on the case, considering that his career and possibly the Town of Cave Creek, which often has business before the Board of Supervisors, could suffer if he won the case -- a victory that would mean two of the five Supervisors wouldn't get the payout they sought. LaMar told us then he wouldn't try to please the Board of Supervisors and county leaders just to make them happy, something that in theory could help out his future business prospects.
For sure, his work up to this point has been lucrative. The firm to which he belongs, Beer & Toone, PC, earned $638,899 from the county from 2010 to April of 2012, the country reports.
The event that led to the replacement of LaMar took place earlier this month, when LaMar had a face-off with U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake.
LaMar argued during the hearing that a $975,000 settlement payment to Wilcox, which was approved by former County Manager David Smith, should be nixed.
But LaMar mysteriously failed to argue that a state law about claims by Supervisors applied in the case, even though County Attorney Bill Montgomery said it did apply. The law, ARS 11-626, states plainly that claims by Supervisors must be approved by at least one Supervisor, who isn't the claimant, and the county treasurer.
It might be easy to assume that LaMar believes strongly that 11-626 doesn't apply, despite what Montgomery thinks.
Yet when reached last week, LaMar told New Times he wouldn't elaborate on why he didn't raise the issue of that law during a May 11 hearing in the case before Judge Wake.
"All I can say is, I argued the position that I thought were the best arguments for the county," LaMar said.
That is, he argued on numerous points as to why Wilcox shouldn't get the taxpayer-funded payment -- except the one that might have made the biggest difference.
As LaMar describes it, Wake asked him several times if he conceded that the law about Supervisors' claims did not apply. But LaMar said he would only answer that his other arguments on why Wilcox shouldn't get the payment made the issue of the "626" law irrelevant.
"The judge said, 'I'll take that as a concession,'" LaMar said.
Wake ordered that the county should pay Wilcox the money that Smith approved back in April.