More controversy over the selection of the city's police monitor
Jones Past = Jones Future?
Now-departing City Manager Jesus Garza said last month that he had hoped to have the city's new police monitor appointed by Christmas. Two weeks into the New Year, there's still no word on which of the two finalists -- Iris Jones or Chris Wittmayer -- will get the job. Meanwhile, attorney Ann del Llano and other police accountability activists continue to express vehement opposition to Jones.
As a former Austin city attorney, del Llano charges, Jones has a built-in conflict of interest that would preclude her from being an effective -- and impartial -- police monitor. Since Jones used to represent the city and its various departments -- including the APD -- she is still bound by whatever privileged information she gleaned during her tenure, del Llano said. Lawyer/client privilege "is a very, very important privilege," said del Llano. "If 10 years [since Jones served as City Attorney] pass, it doesn't matter. I still can't go and stab the person in the back [who] gave me the information. An attorney always has to protect her clients."
Del Llano's conflict claims are a "red herring," said current City Attorney Sedora Jefferson. "There is no viable conflict of interest we need to be concerned about. [Ten years] is just so remote in time, that it doesn't make sense that [Jones' tenure as City Attorney] would be a real issue today." Not only would the statute of limitations by now be passed for many of the cases she handled, Jefferson said, but Jones would not be serving as an attorney. "The legal knowledge is important," she said, but if a conflict ever arises, Jones would simply need to recuse herself.
Still, del Llano said, the Police Oversight Focus Group (of which del Llano was a member) recommended the city not to hire a monitor that had ever worked as an Austin City Attorney. "We did the research then, we saw the potential conflicts, and we warned against it," she said. "But no one asked why."