An ethics complaint filed by an East Ridge woman against Mayor Brent Lambert may force the city to hire outside legal counsel to act as an ethics officer in the case, as City Attorney Mark Litchford says he has a conflict of interest.
Litchford claims the conflict of interest has nothing to do with the fact that he practices law in the same firm as Lambert’s personal attorney John Anderson.
In an e-mail to Laura Seneker, the woman who filed the complaint on May 14, Litchford states: “I consider it a conflict of interest to undertake actions that involve adverse claims directly against any member of the City Council.”
An addendum has been added to tonight’s City Council meeting in which a resolution will be presented to appoint an outside “ethics officer” to serve in the case.
In the complaint, Seneker writes of a June 2, 2017 special called meeting of the East Ridge City Council. In the meeting Mayor Lambert “pushed through a resolution to create $4 million in new debt for the city for the benefit of the development of Exit 1 and the benefit of Exit One L.L.C., the developers of the property.”
Seneker’s ethics complaint states that 12 days after the resolution was adopted, Lambert received a total of $5,000 in campaign contributions, with $3,000 of that coming from developers Matt Wood, Ethan Wood and John Healy. The money “comprised 100 percent of all campaign contributions to the Mayor’s campaign account since the end of 2014,” the complaint states.
Lambert reported the contributions on his financial disclosure statement to the Hamilton County Election Commission. Seneker states in the complaint that Lambert deposited the money “then wrote himself a check for $5,300 from his campaign and deposited the campaign money into his personal account.”
Seneker’s complaint also asks that Litchford step aside in this case as he has a clear conflict of interest.
“Again, this seems straight forward,” Seneker states in the complaint. “Mr. John Anderson is Mayor Brent Lambert’s personal attorney. You are a member of the same law firm as Mr. Anderson. You have an obvious conflict of interest in evaluating the facts of the Ethics Complaint against Mayor Lambert.”
East Ridge News Online received information that the $5,000 in campaign contributions that Lambert reported to the election commission in a July 2017 filing was the result of a fundraising event that Lambert held in June of 2017. A source told ERNO that he received an invitation to the event but did not attend and did not provide a contribution.
Lambert did not respond to a May 18 e-mail in which East Ridge News Online asked him to confirm that there was indeed an effort to raise funds at that time to retire his campaign debt from his 2014 mayoral race.