Jail committee legal counsel resigns in Nelsonville after executive session

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Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail main entrance.

NELSONVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — Regional jail legal counsel, attorney Garry Hunter, who is also the City Attorney for Nelsonville, has resigned from his post on the corrections commission.

The resignation took place Wednesday at the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail during the Corrections Commission of Southeastern Ohio meeting.

At the meeting, NBC asked the question of the committee: “Is there a conflict of interest between the legal counsel on the commission and the same person’s role as Nelsonville City Attorney?” The question was not directly addressed.

At the end of the meeting the committee went into executive session. When it resumed, Commissioner Charles Adkins announced that legal counsel Garry Hunter had resigned.

Commissioner Adkins told NBC the committee had planned to explore new legal counsel a year ago, before COVID hit. “Hunter’s been there for a long time, and we were looking at another legal counsel to look at our issues, maybe a broader firm to interview and come to agreement to select new counsel.”

When asked about a potential conflict of interest between Hunter’s work on the jail commission and his work for the City of Nelsonville, Adkins said: “Where Garry was representing the City of Nelsonville and the regional jail at the same time…if it appears there would be an issue, maybe stay away from that appearance.

Adkins wanted to make it clear that Hunter had been a dedicated member of the jail committee. “Over the years, Hunter has dedicated a lot of time and effort to the jail, and the board members appreciate that. I certainly do.”

Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson used to sit on the board, but now listens into the meetings. She has asked questions about conflict of interest during commission meetings, specifically during a 2018 discussion that included the City of Nelsonville’s interests.

The minutes of February 2018 show: “Auditor Thompson asked Mr. Hunter how he can represent both Nelsonville City and the counties. He advised he was representing both and did not understand her concerns. They continued their discussion about Mr. Hunter trying to represent both parties with Auditor Thompson expressing her concerns that his interest should be with the counties.”

When interviewed by NBC in the weeks before Hunter’s resignation from the committee, Thompson said: “Where I have a concern is any time that your allegiances or loyalties are split and a bias could come into play. When those conflicts arise I expect there to be a recusal or disclaimer and when I don’t see it, I ask the question.

“There was a time that I was questioning the utilities and the costs. In those situations I am questioning which hat are you wearing, and can you counsel the jail commission when potentially you are counselling Nelsonville on the same issue,” Thompson said.

NBC reached out to Nelsonville City Attorney Garry Hunter, leaving voice messages and emails, but has not received a reply yet.

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