Upon hearing reports that Deputy County Attorney Mike Dahilig had called Councilman Dickie Chang at home one evening and asked if he wanted to have a beer, then showed up with a cold pack, followed thereafter by the separate arrivals of Deputy County Attorney Ian Jung and County Attorney Al Castillo and a discussion of the pending transient vacation rental bill, in which Dickie reportedly was told it was his duty to pass the measure because otherwise the county would be sued, I called Mike late yesterday afternoon and asked if it was typical for county attorneys to meet with Councilmembers at their homes and have conversations about bills before the Council.
“You are not the first person to make that inquiry of our office today,” Mike said. “What we did was not illegal. We’re the attorneys for all the Council members. And it’s like any other attorney and client. If they wish to talk with us, we are not going to dictate the venue they choose; we are not going to discern where the locale is. Our office does not engage in direct lobbying, but if there are legal concerns, we will discuss those matters with them.”
“But I heard that you called Dickie,” I said. “He didn’t call you.”
“We may even ask to sit down with Council members if we feel there is some confusion about the issue raised about them on the [Council] floor,” Mike said. “We’re going to advise and counsel, but never take any type of action to tell them how to vote. If we feel that there is some issues being raised that are not on point, we will raise issues with them. We do not go and say actually you have to vote a certain way.”
“What about the beer?” I asked. “Is that just a guy thing, or what’s up with that?”
“Beer is not a substance that we’re not allowed to engage in,” Mike said. “In terms of what beverages we’re drinking, that’s not our job to be in a position to describe the circumstances of the meeting. As far as alcohol consumption, I can’t find anywhere that says it’s illegal.”
“Did you talk to any other Councilmembers?” I asked.
“I’m not going to answer that, and I’m not going to discuss the nature of the conversation,” he said. “That’s privileged information [under attorney-client privilege].”
Is what happened between Dickie and the attorneys illegal? The County Attorney’s office says no.
Is it unethical? In terms of the code for attorney conduct, I asked two lawyers and was unable to get an answer to that question.
Is it appropriate? I’ll let you decide.
Did it have an effect? Well, before the meeting, Dickie was not going to support the bill.
The bill goes before the full Council on Wednesday.