Thursday, December 22, 2011

County attorney bites the dust

Louis will leave in six months for private practice

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 10:01 AM

County Attorney Bill Louis will resign in six months under an agreement approved by El Paso County commissioners today on a 4-1 vote, with Darryl Glenn dissenting.

Later, in response to a question, Glenn wrote in an e-mail: "Since it's a personnel matter, I believe that it's probably appropriate for you to obtain a release from Bill that would allow me to make an official comment."

Otherwise, it was accolades all around for Louis, who has worked for the county for 14 years and is making $132,116 a year. But Louis caused a stir several weeks ago when he reported a possible bribe involving the county's intention to lease/purchase a building on Arrowswest Drive. The report triggered a district attorney inquiry but no subsequent investigation, because District Attorney Dan May said there was no reason to pursue the matter further.

Louis: Gone in six months
  • Louis: Gone in six months

Commissioner Dennis Hisey has said Louis was "counseled" about how he reported the so-called bribe by taking it to all commissioners rather than his two liaisons, Amy Lathen and Sallie Clark.

But four of the five commissioners were generous with their comments this morning, thus:

Lathen: "Bill, I know you want to go into private practice and it’s bittersweet, because I know how successful you will be and I wish you the best but I hate to see you go. I thank you for the extraordinary work we’ve been able to do together, the guidance you’ve given me, and by creating an atmosphere of how we make things happen instead of no we can’t. As you venture out to your new endeoavors I applaud you but you are going to be very sorely missed."

Clark called Louis "a can-do kind of guy," adding, "I know you’ll be successful in private practice. Being here and in government is different and I know you’ve served this county very well over the years. I will continue to work with you in whatever way happens in the future."

Hisey told Louis that if he ever needs an attorney in his private life, Louis will be his first phone call.

"Bill, I look forward to the next six months," Hisey said. "Somebody’s going to have big shoes to fill. I really appreciate that you don’t tell us we can’t do that. You even give us odds. Should we take the lower odd choice, you’re always willing to defend us."

Commissioner Peggy Littleton: "Bill, I’ve had less than a year to work with you and thoroughly enjoy your humor and lightheartedness you put into difficult situations. You're a person who gives great analogies, so you can make the language of law easily understood. I thank you for making it fun, making it relevant and for your friendship."

Glenn Schlabs, who had provided various legal services for the county under contract for 20 years, said, "I can assure you this board and the people of our county have never been better served by the county attorney."

County Administrator Jeff Greene, whom Louis criticized for how Green was handling the Arrowswest deal, also commended Louis.

"This is a day you hope never comes to fruition," Greene said. "Mr. Louis has served this county very well. There probably was not a better civil county attorney since (the late) Norm Palermo. Mr. Louis has handled some of the most difficult development cases in the last 10 years. He has served the administration and the board very well. I’m very thankful he has agreed to stay around a little longer to help transition this organization forward."

Louis responded, saying, "I am honored and humbled and grateful to this board. I hope this board will allow me to be of service for another six months as a full-time, in-house employee. I look forward after that to a long-term association with El Paso County in whatever form that will take. I am very grateful to this board, the county officials, county administration and the previous board and previous non-board elected officials I served with, and also I am extremely grateful to the taspayers of this community who allowed me to serve them for 14 years. You’ve provided me with wonderful legal experience. I hope that I’ve delivered some small service in exchange for that."

Schlabs told commissioners the negotiated agreement for Louis calls for him to stay for six months and provides "protection" for the county on the termination clause, which formerly required the county to pay Louis six months salary if he was discharged.

Schlabs called the agreement "a good balance between what’s fair for Mr. Louis and what’s needed by the county."

The county has a long history of ousting county attorneys, starting with Beth Whittier, who was bounced in 2005 at a meeting from which was absent due to illness. Mike Lucas also was shown the door before Louis took over.

Nothing came out in today's meeting concerning how the commissioners will choose Louis' successor.

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