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Policy board takes bids for 'conflict' attorneys

 

The Cheyenne County commissioners are seeking bids for "conflict" attorneys as they look to hire a public defender and guardian ad litem.

In Monday's commissioners meeting, the county's policy board proposed contracts to publish notice for two conflict attorneys for the proposed public defender and guardian ad litem positions. These positions would fill in for the public defender or guardian ad litem when conflict of interest arise and they could not fulfill their normal duties. According to Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub, this issue arises in about 20 percent of court cases.

The discussion has been ongoing since December. At the Cheyenne County commissioners meeting on Dec. 21, 2015, a discussion on the county hiring a public defender and guardian ad litem was tabled.

Cheyenne County currently does not have a public defender or a guardian ad litem. A public defender is an attorney appointed to a case when one can not be afforded. A guardian ad litem represent children's interests in cases involving adoption, child custody, child support, divorce, emancipation and visitation rights.

At this time, when the county is in need of a public defender or guardian ad litem, they are brought in from Scottsbluff, Ogallalla or Gering. After looking at the money the county pays in gas mileage and other factors, the commissioners decided that bringing in a visiting attorney is not cost efficient.

Instead of setting a compensation package for the positions, the county's policy board asked interested attorneys to submit bids. In December, bids for a public defender and guardian ad litem were presented by the policy board.

While considering the bids concerns arose about conflicts of interest. According to a memo sent by Phillip M. Kelly, a member of the policy board, a lawyer can't represent a client if the representation involves concurrent conflict of interest. A conflict of interest could arise in criminal cases where there were two or more defendants, co-conspirators or confidential informants. Attorneys who are associated with each other cannot represent parties in the same case.

The commissioners have already opened bids for the public defender and guardian ad litem positions, but have not acted on them due to the need to find the "conflict" attorneys. The bids for public defender were Donald JB Miller at $249,000, Stacy Bach at $192,000, James R. Kroth at $450,000 and Steven Elmshauser at $336,000. The lone bid for the guardian ad litem position was Audrey M. Elliot at $126,000. The figures listed are a per-year salary, even though each position will be appointed for a two-year contract.

The conflict attorneys will be appointed for a two-year contract and run concurrent with the public defender and guardian ad litem contracts. Recommendations for all positions will be presented at the county commissioners meeting on March 21.

 

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