Counsel wants contract lawyer out

April 12, 2002 12:00 am

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Alleging a conflict of interest, the Calaveras County Counsels Office wants county supervisors to fire the attorney handling county child neglect and abuse cases.

The attorney, Michael Arkin, also represented county employees who filed complaints against the Family Support Division of the District Attorneys office. The complaints claim instances of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.

An investigation done in December concluded the complaints were unfounded.

Arkin, an independent contractor with the county and a private attorney in San Andreas, has handled cases for the county Child Protective Services for seven years. His contract pays about $60,000 a year and expires Aug. 24, 2003.

Arkin and his own attorney, Ken Foley, told County Counsel Skip Batchelder in a written statement that no conflict of interest took place. They said Arkins client is Child Protective Services, not Calaveras County, that Arkin is not a county employee and he never took an oath of loyalty.

Supervisors are to discuss the matter during an April 22 closed session.

On the consent agenda of Mondays Board of Supervisors meeting, Foley is asking the county to pay $150,000 to Arkin to settle the matter out of court and end Arkins contract.

Because of threatened litigation, Batchelder said he cannot discuss the matter.

But in letters to Arkin and Foley, Batchelder says Arkins client is the county, and that he betrayed the county by representing Family Support Division employees in the alleged sexual harassment matter.

According to Arkins contract, he must submit invoices to the County Counsels Office to be paid, and that Arkins Child Protective Service case files and related materials belong to the County Counsel.

Arkin has refused to return 211 open case files to Batchelder. Foley in March told Batchelder in the latter that returning the files would leave Arkin unable to carry out his contract which is still in effect .