Today: Jul 07 , 2020

Fire Board Attorney Cornelius Writes Language to Indemnify Himself

25 July 2018  

Attorney Cornelius flip flops on whether or not the Board should indemnify him.

What a difference a month makes.

In the June 25, 2018 meetings, this item was on the agenda for all three Fire Boards: Chino Valley Fire District (CVFD), Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority (CAFMA) and Central Yavapai Fire District:

You can read about that dilemma here: The Conflict of Interest Facing Attorney Cornelius

After their Executive Session on June 25, the CAFMA Board President, Julie Pettit, spoke to the public and said that the way the agenda item was actually "premature" and they were not proposing, nor had they proposed an amendment. "What we realized is that there was no indemnification clause in the contract which is a normal course of business. It will be taken under advisement for a future date."

When considering the matter during the July meeting,
Pettit advocated for approving the indemnification.

Then Attorney Cornelius spoke and stated that a Bar complaint had been filed against him by Board Members ViciLee Jacobs and Tom Steele. Cornelius suggested that Jacobs and Steele may not have recognized the consequences of such a serious decision as filing a Bar Complaint, stating, "That means that all those acts that were taken may in fact, be inappropriate, notwithstanding the fact that they were voted on in Executive Session, or discussed in Executive session, voted on in open meeting. There is a basis for talking about ratification of those kind of things, a whole series of additional issues that arise from the suggestions that were made."

Then he said, "I would never suggest to the Board that they should indemnify me... The whole point is to advise them as to what their rights and responsibilities are and that they must retain outside third-party counsel to advise them…"

Fast forward to the July 23, 2018 meeting, where Cornelius explains that he wrote his own indemnification clause, using language that had been previously used in other contracts. Now, instead of telling them they "must" retain outside counsel to advise them, he offered to suggest names of 3rd party attorneys if the Board "deems it necessary."

He also said he made one change, "I put specific language in saying reimbursement for attorney's fees and costs incurred."

You can see Cornelius’ about face on the issue from June 25 to July 23 in this video:

CAFMA Board Chair Pettit said that she had looked at the legal language, and it looked standard to her. The CVFD Board agreed with her and voted unanimously to approve adding the indemnification language to Cornelius’ contract. The question of whether the action itself was appropriate was never discussed. The CAFMA Board discussed it a few minutes longer, with Director Wasowicz stating that in most circumstances, he would think that consulting with a 3rd party attorney would be advisable, but he chose in the end to vote with the other Board members to approve the indemnification.

Wasowicz hesitated, but in the end, he also voted to
approve the indemnification for Attorney Cornelius.

During the CYFD Board meeting, there was little discussion on the matter. When it came time to vote, Wasowicz, Board Chair Darlene Packard and Matt Zurcher all voted yes. Director Steele voted no, without comment. Director Jacobs was absent from the meeting and did not vote.

What exactly did they vote on? That’s not known, as the language being considered was not made public or in the packet.

Without comment, Director Tom Steele voted against
the indemnification for Cornelius.

Cornelius did say that he would not be seeking reimbursement for any expenses he may have already incurred.

There is more information, including a video from the July 25 meeting here: CAFMA to Vote on Indemnification for Attorney Cornelius Bar Complaint


Lynne LaMaster

Lynne LaMaster is the Founder of the eNewsAZ Network of websites. She will be leaving for new adventures on May 15, 2020.