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Archive for Tuesday, October 20, 1998

COUNTY TAPS NEW COUNSELOR

October 20, 1998

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Former State Sen. Wint Winter Jr. will represent Douglas County in civil cases such as zoning disputes, personnel matters and election recalls.

The Douglas County Commission on Monday voted unanimously to hire former State Sen. Wint Winter Jr. as county counselor.

Saying he was proud of how Winter represented Douglas County in a zoning lawsuit last year, Commissioner Dean Nieder led the charge to hire him.

Winter, a partner at the Lawrence law firm of Stevens & Brand, will replace attorney Theresa Nuckolls, who recently announced her resignation effective Nov 1.

``I'm very honored by the county's trust in me and my firm,'' Winter said Monday after the vote.

Winter represented the county in a lawsuit brought by William Lemesany, who sued after commissioners in February 1997 failed to rezone 208 acres he owned near Vinland. District Judge Jack Murphy upheld the county's decision to reject the zoning change proposal for Vinland Valley Estates.

The former senator did an excellent job pinch-hitting for Nuckolls, who had a conflict of interest in the case, Nieder said. So when Nuckolls decided to resign to pursue other opportunities, Nieder immediately thought of Winter.

Under Winter's contract with the county, Stevens & Brand will charge $90 an hour for attorney's time but $110 per hour for participation at court hearings, state administrative hearings and commission hearings. Nuckolls' contract called for $75 an hour plus $5,000 annually. Work by law clerks and legal assistants will generate a charge of $35 an hour under the contract.

Other attorneys at Stevens & Brand will assist Winter, Winter said.

Winter's appointment drew the concern of Larry Kipp, who attends many commission meetings, usually on behalf of the Douglas County Property Owners Assn.

While he didn't question Winter's qualifications, Kipp said Winter's ownership of Peoples Bank could give the ``appearance of an impropriety.''

Kipp noted that Lawrence City Commissioner Bonnie Augustine is president of Peoples Bank, and Winter's appointment as county counselor ``will establish that two of the most powerful decision-makers of Peoples Bank may have simultaneous access to and prior knowledge of evolving public policies and ancillary information of both the (city and county) that may directly bear upon their company's financial future.''

``Maybe I should be honored that he thinks that a bank without even a drive-up window could be so powerful,'' Winter said later.

``I appreciate his concern, and I believe it's handled by the rules of ethics and the requirement of attorneys to keep confidences confident,'' he added.

Winter will come on board Nov. 2, handling all new cases before the county and working with Nuckolls on existing cases. Nuckolls has said she does not want to leave any county cases unfinished.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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