Is it ethical for an attorney to represent a client before a To Board, Town Planning Board, or Town Zoning Board of Appeals, in a town where he is also Chairman of the Town Housing Authority, counsel to a Town Parking Authority, frequently appointed special counsel by the Town Board and is an elected political Committeeman, and, by virtue of the foregoing appointments and elective office, necessarily has an extensive and close personal relationship with the aforesaid officials?
The activities and powers of the Town Housing Authority, Town Parking Authority, Town Planning Board and Town Zoning Board of Appeals are so related to the Town Board that one who is serving as attorney to the Town Board, even as special counsel, and so long as he so acts, should not represent a private client before any of those agencies because of a possible conflict of interest, under Canon 6 which provides:
“It is unprofessional to represent conflicting interests, except by express consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. Within the meaning of this canon, a lawyer represents conflicting interests when, in behalf of one client, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another client requires him to oppose.”
The exception contained in Canon 6 with respect to disclosure is not deemed by the Committee to be relevant where the client is a public agency.
If the attorney is not currently acting as counsel for the Town Board, his official position as Chairman of the Town Housing Authority and as counsel to the Town Parking Authority would not prevent his appearing before the Town Board, the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Appeals, provided no conflict of interest would be likely to arise as to the subject matter, but it would be improper for him to accept a new assignment for the Town Board while such matters were pending.
Close personal relationship with officials is not by itself a disqualification, nor is the fact that the attorney is an elected political committeeman, but at all times his actions must of course comply with the Canons, including the provisions of Canon 26 which forbids an attorney “to. use means other than those addressed to the reason and understanding to influence action.”
Dated: November 2, 1962