Mayor Chris Beutler said today that State and local laws enacted by the people and their elected representatives make it clear that City Attorney Rod Confer has a duty to give legal advice only to those representing the City. The Mayor responded to questions on the role of the City Attorney regarding the Fairness Ordinance passed by the City Council May 14. It protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals from discrimination in the workplace, in housing and in public accommodations.
"The City Attorney is bound by both State and City law to defend any measure passed by the City Council and signed by the Mayor," Beutler said. "He cannot ethically represent both sides of an issue. In the case of the petitions being circulated to repeal the Fairness Ordinance, it would be contrary to the duties imposed on the City Attorney by State and City laws for him to advise any party on the language of a petition that seeks to keep a duly passed and signed ordinance from taking effect."
Mayor Beutler cited Nebraska State Statute (Sec. 15-322), the Lincoln City Charter (Art. IV, Sec. 15) and the Lincoln Municipal Code (Sec. 2.24.010), which state that the City Attorney shall be the "legal advisor of the mayor, the city council and city officers" and that he shall "commence, prosecute and defend actions on behalf of the city."
In addition, Mayor Beutler said, "When fundamental minority rights are threatened by discrimination it is the duty of elected leaders to intervene and protect those fundamental rights, just as we have in previous eras for African Americans, women and the disabled. That's why the City Council passed and I signed the Fairness Ordinance to protect the civil rights of certain citizens in employment, housing and public accommodations."
The Mayor signed the ordinance May 14, and it is scheduled to go into effect May 30. In a letter Wednesday, Confer wrote that there is a problem with the language on a petition being circulated to prevent the City's new Fairness Ordinance from taking effect.