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Former OV attorney fired by county

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Posted: Wednesday, November 24, 2004 12:00 am | Updated: 7:48 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Nov. 17, 2004 - Former Oro Valley Attorney Mark Langlitz was fired from his position as an attorney in the civil division of the Pima County Attorney's office last week after a letter indicating his wish to return to the town was sent to the office of County Attorney Barbara LaWall.

"It was a personal vendetta against me, at least it appears that way," Langlitz said Nov. 15 from his home.

He said he was called into his supervisor's office at the county on the morning of Nov. 12 and fired upon his supervisors learning that he recently had inquired about re-employment in Oro Valley.

"The county job was a good job, I was very fortunate to have had that opportunity," he said. It came as a surprise that he was let go from his position in the civil office, as Langlitz said he sent the letter to Oro Valley "in good faith" and did not expect it to end up in the hands of his current boss.

Calls to the county attorney's office seeking comment on Langlitz's termination were not returned.

Langlitz said the letter also stated his wish to mend fences broken during his departure, particularly with regard to Councilmember Conny Culver, who alleged Langlitz had threatened her at the last council meeting he attended as town attorney, after the two debated whether Culver could direct staff to schedule a special session. Langlitz told her doing so would be a violation of open meetings laws and the two hotly discussed the issue during the meeting. Culver later filed a complaint with the Oro Valley Police Department alleging Langlitz threatened her after the meeting.

Langlitz has denied ever making such statements.

"I'd like to patch up whatever the problem is," he said of the relationship with Culver.

Culver said she received a phone message and two letters from Langlitz recently, but that she did not respond to the messages and did not forward any information to the county.

"I was not happy to be getting phone messages and correspondence after he was asked not to contact me," she said when reached by telephone Nov. 15. "If Mark chooses to think that's personal, it's up to him."

Langlitz said he recently met with some council members, who he would not name, expressing his wish to return to Oro Valley and felt "encouraged" about coming back to the town attorney's office.

"I thought things were going well," he said. He said those with whom he met requested that he write a letter to the town expressing his wish to return.

Councilmember Terry Parish said he talked with Langlitz on several occasions about the possibility of coming back to work for Oro Valley, even before he went to work for the county.

Although he said he could not say definitely how he would vote if the issue were brought before the council, Langlitz's return is not something he necessarily opposes, although in light of recent circumstances, it may not be something supported by the majority, he said.

"I have no problem with Mark," Parish said when reached by phone Nov. 15. "He's been nothing but respectful and has always done what he thought was right for the town."

In September, the council changed the appointment process for hiring a town attorney from having the town manager solely make the appointment to having the mayor and council make the decision.

Human Resources Director Jeff Grant said the town began advertising the open position this month in local newspapers and in the state bar association's professional journal, and that the intent is to have the first review of applications Dec. 15.

Even with this recent turn of events, Langlitz said he is still pursing a return to the town.

"I never wanted to leave in the first place," he said. "I felt like I was definitely pushed out."

Parish said Langlitz echoed those sentiments in conversations the two had, although Culver pointed out statements to the contrary Langlitz made to the Northwest EXPLORER when he resigned from his position with the town. At the time, Langlitz was asked about rumors that he was being squeezed to leave, to which he said: "I'm not getting out of town. I am joining the county. Before I can do that, I have to leave here."

Langlitz said the primary reason he wants to be back in town hall is that he formed "strong interpersonal relationships" with many of the town staff and some of the council members and enjoyed his work greatly. He said his decision to resign was a difficult one.

Langlitz said he left Oro Valley because of "political pressure" and that he had been threatened with termination. He said he felt particularly bulldozed over his decision to investigate the campaign finances of the political committee OV Candidates 2004. The group signed an agreement with the town in October in which it paid a $5,000 penalty but did not admit to any wrongdoing, with both sides agreeing that the law regarding independent expenditure committees is "ambiguous," according to the agreement.

Langlitz said he was asked by council members to disclose information about the investigation into the committee while it was ongoing and also told he should end the investigation.

OV Candidates 2004 spent more than $18,000 in the spring council election, purchasing advertisements that supported Culver, Helen Dankwerth, Barry Gillaspie, Kenneth "KC" Carter and Richie Feinberg. All but Feinberg were elected.

Two of the committee's three primary contributors are Bill Adler and Celta Sheppard, who both have close political and personal relationships with several councilmembers. Langlitz in July asked their political committee to refile its organizational paperwork with the town, saying he believed there was evidence the committee's members, or agents, worked in coordination with candidates or their committees, which is prohibited by state law for independent committees. The committee's three members faced fines of as much as $57,000. The recent negotiated agreement between the town and the committee resolved Langlitz's action.

"My role was to represent the town and the residents and to protect the integrity of the town and the election process," he said.

Langlitz said he believes he gave the town sound legal advice while working there, which, while not always popular, in the end saved tax-payer dollars.

"The town did not lose one lawsuit when I was there," he said. "I was 100 percent correct." He pointed specifically to his work on the annexation of an area at Magee and Oracle roads, called area B, which was challenged by resident Philip Richardson, who petitioned the court to void the annexation; the lawsuit filed against the town by Celta Sheppard to get the town to move the town facilities from its West Calle Concordia location; the lawsuit filed by former Oro Valley police officer James Bloomfield to be reinstated after he was fired; and the lawsuit filed by Stop OV Outrageous Giveaways to refer tax incentive agreements for two Oro Valley developments to the voters. In each of those four cases, the judge ruled in favor of the town, all under the advice and supervision of Langlitz.

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