Yesterday, I wrote my city rep, Stacy Hurst, as well as the at-large reps and told them I didn’t want Jane Dickey to be re-appointed to the Central Arkansas Water Commission. I quickly got a very nice note back from Mrs. Hurst, in which she agreed it was an important vote ( but she didn’t hint which way she was leaning) The matter was tabled for at least a week – and we will see what happens.
I’ll admit I jumped on the bandwagon on this issue and I’m still not 100% sure what the fuss is all about. I understand that Mrs. Dickey works for the Rose Law Firm, who used to represent Deltic Timber. Deltic Timber owns chunks of land around Lake Maumelle, and have been trying for years to for Central Arkansas Water to either pay exorbitant prices to give up their real estate – or to be allowed to develop the land dangerously close to the water’s edge. I also understand that she is accused of giving some poor advice that ended up costing CAW thousands in the long run.
In general, I’d prefer someone on the board that reflects my values of course. Like many people, I don’t drink Perrier or Fiji water – I drink out of the tap so I would prefer that we keep any pollutants as far away from Lake Maumelle as possible. Obviously Deltic Timber has other plans in mind – so in general I would prefer their former lawyer not be allowed to decide what goes in my tap water. I think a former CAW employee would have much more subject matter expertise and passion than most attorneys.
All that being said — does Dickey really have a “conflict of interest” ? Lawyers don’t always love their clients, and they especially don’t have to love former clients. They do have a duty of loyalty though. Meaning, because Mrs. Dickey’s firm once represented Deltic Timber – they can’t turn around and represent someone who is suing Deltic Timber without Deltic’s permission ( and why would they permit that) If she was privy to confidential discussions with Deltic’s CEO, the substance of those conversations is still private. So, if Deltic is in negotiations with CAW, once again trying to fleece the customers, and they make statements Dickey knows to be false — she is ethically bound to refrain from divulging her knowledge even though her firm no longer represents Deltic. This issue is sure to come up again. Dickey can refrain from voting on any Deltic Timber issues if she thinks there is a conflict but wouldn’t it be better to let someone else step in that has no duty to CAW’s biggest adversary ?