Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette reports on a possible bar complaint against a former county prosecutor:
Kanawha County commissioners may file a complaint with the West Virginia State Bar over a former county prosecutor who is now representing a private client in a claim against the county.
On Wednesday, Mike Clifford wrote a letter to Kanawha Sheriff Mike Rutherford saying he would file a claim against the county for damages to the property of Sandra Shaffer. Charleston Police dug up Shaffer's property on Hughart Drive near Sissonville earlier this month looking for evidence in the 2003 Kanawha County sniper shootings, and sheriff's deputies helped provide security for the search.
Clifford was Kanawha County's prosecuting attorney at the time of the shootings. Shaffer gave statements to police at the time, and may be a witness against Shawn Lester, who was a suspect at the time and was arrested last week in connection with the series of three shootings.
The rules of professional conduct for lawyers in West Virginia specify that a lawyer can't represent a private client in a matter he or she was involved in as a county prosecutor or other public officer. County Commissioners Kent Carper and Dave Hardy, both lawyers, believe it is a conflict of interest for Clifford to now represent Shaffer.
"I practiced law 26 years, and I know what the conflict rules are," Hardy said at a regular County Commission meeting Thursday. "I think there's a conflict."
"There's a clear conflict," said Gary Pullen, a lawyer hired by the county's insurance company to represent the county commission in insurance matters.