By EDDIE CELAYA
Pima Community College Board of Governors District 5 representative Luis Gonzales called the college’s legal services model into question in a letter issued to his fellow board members, Chancellor Lee Lambert and General Counsel Jeff Silvyn.
“I have concluded that the college’s current legal services model was not formally adopted by the board,” Gonzales’ letter reads. “Further, the model seriously impedes the board from rendering objective decisions.”
It further alleges the current legal services model creates a “serious conflict of interest and a potential breach in the attorney-client privilege.”
Legal service models vary among public and private organizations, according to Lambert. “It’s not uncommon for colleges or universities to have general counsel,” he said.
In PCC’s case, it adheres to a model outlined in Board Policy 6.1. Section 2, which defines Silvyn’s role as the general counsel representing the college.
“The college as a whole entity is the general counsel’s sole client, regardless of which individual or group represents the district as the general counsel’s client,” the policy reads.
However, Gonzales finds BP 6.1 contradictory. “Under the current legal services model, our in-house legal counsel is actively and intimately involved” with disciplinary cases on an administrative level, Gonzales’ letter contends.
He points to Section 7 of BP 6.1 as evidence. It reads, “The chancellor may assign the general counsel supervision of college functions such as compliance, training, risk management, or other areas.”
It also notes that when working in such a capacity, the general counsel should make sure to draw a distinction “to clarify when he or she is exercising such administrative responsibility, rather than providing a legal service.”
Gonzales released the letter publicly before the beginning of the April 12 board meeting.
Because the issue of legal services in Gonzales’ letter was not on the board’s agenda for the evening, it did not receive any official recognition or discussion.
In an April 22 phone interview, board Chairman Mark Hanna confirmed the legal services issue would be on a future board docket.
“We scheduled a study session, and we are going to bring in some experts on the issue and really take a full look at our legal model,” Hanna said. “It’s scheduled for the May 22 meeting.”