Today: Feb 29 , 2020

The Conflict of Interest Facing Attorney Cornelius

21 June 2018  

Attorney Nicolas Cornelius is asking for taxpayers to pay for his personal legal fees and costs related to unknown administrative and/or Legal actions being taken against him.

For months, citizens have expressed their concerns that Attorney Nick Cornelius, who simultaneously represents the three Fire District Boards of Central Yavapai Fire District (CYFD), Chino Valley Fire District (CVFD) and Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority (CAFMA) has an inherent conflict of interest.

That conflict of interest could be in the spotlight during the upcoming board meetings on Monday, June 25.

First, here’s the meeting schedule:

CVFD: 4:00-4:30 PM
Joint Budget Meeting of all Boards: 4:30 - 5 PM
Central Yavapai Fire District: 6-7 PM

All four meetings will be held at the Chino Valley Town Hall, 202 N. State Route 89, Chino Valley.

Each of the Boards in their individual meetings (not including the Joint Meeting) will go into Executive Session to consider a particular item, and then will be asked to vote on that item under New Business. Here’s the item under consideration for the Executive Sessions:

When they vote, this is the item on their agendas under New Business:

But, there’s a problem. Nicholas Cornelius is their Board Attorney. It’s to be expected that he will, by default, be representing his own interests. Even if he brings another attorney to represent his proposed amendment, Cornelius will still have his own interests to consider.

So, who is representing the interests of the Fire Boards and the taxpayers? If Cornelius recuses himself, do they hire another attorney to guide them? Who? How do they find that attorney? Does Cornelius offer a recommendation? None of the Boards have any item on their agendas for voting to find another attorney in these circumstances.

Also, the agenda item is very vague and offers no details. There is nothing in the agenda packets, either. What administrative or legal action is being taken against Nicolas Cornelius? Why is it the taxpayers responsibility to pay for this? How much is he asking for - a set amount or an open checkbook? Nothing has ever been discussed in any prior public meetings about this matter.

If he is being sued, typically a Notice of Claim would be filed. Has that happened? If not, is there really anything for the Boards to approve or the taxpayers to pay for? Doesn’t the public have a right to know exactly what the claim is that needs to be defended?

And finally, does Cornelius have malpractice insurance? Wouldn’t that be standard for a practicing attorney from a well-respected firm to carry? So, why should the taxpayers pay for something if he has insurance to cover such incidents? Is he afraid to turn it over to his malpractice carrier? Why?

If he doesn’t have malpractice insurance, why the heck not? Shouldn’t malpractice or liability insurance be something required in order to work for a public entity such as a fire board - especially three fire boards?

These particular fire boards aren't known for asking a lot of questions. They usually go into executive session to be advised and then return to the public meetings and vote like automatons. If there is ever a time to break with that tradition, it is now.

These are questions that need to be asked by the members of the Fire Boards in a public meeting. This is not a closed door issue. The answers should be carefully scrutinized by the Boards as transparently as possible. Before voting to approve such an extraordinary request, all due diligence must be carried out.

After all, this is the taxpayers money.

Lynne LaMaster

Lynne LaMaster is the Founder and Editor of the eNewsAZ Network of websites. She asks a lot of questions! In her spare time, she loves photography, cooking and hanging out with her family.