Former counsel still in case

August 23, 2002 12:00 am

By ERIC BURKETT

Former Tuolumne County counsel Patrick Greenwell may continue to represent his former co-workers in their lawsuit against the county over retirement benefits.

Visiting Judge Charles Stone of Stanislaus County ruled Aug. 16 there was no conflict in the former county employee's representing others in a lawsuit against the county.

"The county was trying to claim that the mere fact that I was county counsel should disqualify me," Greenwell said Wednesday.

The attorney representing Tuolumne County in this case, Art Hartinger of the Meyers Nave firm in San Leandro, downplayed Stone's decision Wednesday, noting it was just one of several Stone handed down on the case, and the only one in Greenwell's favor.

Among the most notable, Hartinger said, all the individual suits filed by Greenwell against the Board of Supervisors were dismissed.

"In terms of the substantive issues, what's at issue in the litigation, and who are the defendants, we won," said Hartinger.

At the center of the issue is a lawsuit filed on behalf of several former executive and confidential county employees against Tuolumne County over retirement benefits. Greenwell, while representing the employees, is also party to the suit as a former county employee himself.

While Greenwell is now suing the county over what the plaintiffs have described as the loss of their benefits, the county charged — and continues to charge — that he actually sat in on the meetings at which the county first organized those benefits.

Greenwell said he never sat in on those meetings, leaving all human resources issues to then Deputy County Counsel Gregory Oliver. Two years ago, Oliver was hired to replace Greenwell as the county's chief attorney.

Hartinger disputes Greenwell's assertions. It may be largely true that Greenwell did not attend most of the meetings at which human resources issues were discussed, he said, "but the buck stops largely at the county counsel.