Rachel Michel resigned Tuesday as McComb city attorney, saying she would be ethically unable to follow a list of directives from Mayor Zach Patterson, which included an order forbidding her from talking to city board members except at meetings.
“It is incumbent upon me to advise you that in my opinion, no attorney licensed in this state and in good standing with the State Bar will be able to adhere to all of the directives as ordered by the mayor while simultaneously adhering to our ethics rules, the Mississippi Rules of Professional Responsibility,” Michel wrote in a letter to the mayor and selectmen.
Michel sent Patterson a letter on Monday that put in writing the content of a meeting between the two on the prior Thursday. According to the letter, obtained by someone other than Michel, the mayor ordered virtually all of Michel’s city-related work to be cleared by him first. She wrote that he cited his authority as “supervisor of the city attorney” in setting out guidelines.
Her account of last week’s meeting with the mayor included 14 instructions from him.
“There is more than one directive on that list that I find violates the Mississippi Rules of Professional Responsibility,” Michel said.
“When I have directions from a client that go against the rules of professional responsibility, I’m going to rely on the rules of professional responsibility,” she said. “The choice is clear.”
Among the instructions from Patterson to Michel:
• Provide the mayor with a specific schedule of times and hours that she would work or be on call.
• Do not request any city employee to take any action, including administrative tasks like gathering documents to defend the city in pending legal matters, without first getting the mayor’s permission.