I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I want to share my thoughts about a defamatory letter published in the Index-Tribune.
[Last month] I received an anonymous letter at my City Hall mailbox. The letter included a copy of a decade old declaration filed in a lawsuit I brought against a former law firm (after I sued them, they countersued me). The suit concerned a dispute about the splitting of legal fees. The letter and declaration were sent to all of my colleagues, the Index-Tribune, the City Manager and the City Attorney. The City Manager distributed the letter and declaration to the public at our City Council meeting and it is part of the official record for that meeting. The declaration was written by my mother who at that time was a private professional fiduciary and worked extensively with my former law firm. They referred her cases as a fiduciary and she hired them to be her lawyer. Ultimately, we resolved our fee dispute and dropped our lawsuits. My mother’s license was canceled by the California Professional Fiduciary Licensing Bureau in 2011.
In a recent Index-Tribune article about these anonymous attacks, I was quoted as saying this should be a private family matter. I still believe that, because that’s what this issue was to me. It became more than a typical lawyer fee dispute. It’s when my relationship with my own Mom ended. Let me be very clear, the allegations in the declaration from my mother are not true. California attorneys swear an oath to conduct themselves with dignity and integrity. I take my oath very seriously and have an untarnished record with the California Bar Association.
The City Council has accomplished a lot recently. From enforcing our zoning code designed to protect our hillsides, to appointing a planning commission more democratically connected to the people, to enacting reasonable limits on tasting rooms on the Plaza, we’ve made a lot of progress. I am not surprised that those who have been negatively affected by these changes are trying to discredit me personally. The role of the Council is to look out for everyone and not just special interests. So instead of admitting that they want unlimited development on the hillside, unlimited tasting rooms on the plaza and planning commissioners hand picked by their friends, they have decided to attack me.
I have been practicing law since 2005. I am a mother, a homeowner, a business owner and the current Mayor of Sonoma. I know that my family, friends, colleagues and clients have no questions about my integrity. For those of you who don’t know me please don’t hesitate to reach out to me about this if you see me around town, or via email at [email protected]
I ran for City Council because I love our town. I want to ensure Sonoma remains one of the best places on earth. I know my colleagues on the City Council, Rachel, Logan, David and Madolyn, feel the same way. We all devote many, many hours a week to this worthy cause, our town. We don’t do this for riches – we receive $300 a month before taxes, and we’re added to the city’s health insurance plan if we elect to pay for that out of our stipend. We do this because we love Sonoma.
Public officials should always be held to high standards. People have every right to scrutinize those who represent them. I am not asking for sympathy. But I do think, as a town, we should take this opportunity to reflect upon where our small town politics are headed. We can continue to mirror what’s happening nationally, and go straight into the gutter, or we can strive to be something better. Over the last few years, Sonoma’s small town politics have seemed anything but. People running for city council are now subject to defamatory character assassination. When did this become acceptable in Sonoma? Who would want to run for and serve on our city council in this environment? Make no mistake, I will never be intimidated by this, but I want to make sure others aren’t as well.
I am honored to serve our town as Mayor this year and my commitment to serving our town and those who live here remains stronger than ever.
— Amy Harrington, Sonoma