Charter Commission unhappy with conflict of interest investigation by Everett; joins Maroney in auditor request

bolton-logo After skirmishes with the Council over its response to Judy Dirks and then an educational mailing to residents, the Northfield Charter Commission has a new battle with the City. In Wed. Nfld News,: Charter Commission looking for auditor to weigh in:

The Charter Commission Tuesday added its voice to that of resident Dave Maroney in asking the state auditor to consider whether the city violated the charter when hiring an interim city engineer. Maroney, who has long asked about the 2006 hiring of a consultant as the interim city engineer, said that an investigator’s review of city engineering contracts didn’t answer his questions about whether the hire was in keeping with state laws and Northfield’s charter. Peter Dahlen, chair of the Charter Commission, said today that he believes the investigation, conducted by William Everett, is incomplete and “shoddy,” failing to address possible violations of the charter.

Here’s a background article in the Nfld News by Suzy Rook: Engineering hire was ethical, second investigation reports. And see Dave Maroney’s March 8 letter to the editor in the paper.

42 thoughts on “Charter Commission unhappy with conflict of interest investigation by Everett; joins Maroney in auditor request”

  1. The Charter Commission has overstepped its authority. Mr. Maroney himself has a conflict of interest in this situation. My understanding is that he wants to be city administrator and that his engineering firm was a competitor of the firm hired to provide the services. Is that true?
    Is there a shred of proof that the temporary engineer’s firm won a contract for which it was not low bid or did shoddy work that was covered up?
    The council hired an investigator. There was a report. The fact that the charter commission ‘doesn’t like’ the result isn’t grounds for a trip to the auditor’s office. Where is the democracy here? You bring up an issue, you lose, you move on.
    The city attorney has not questioned the investigator’s report or the hiring of the temporary engineer. The council has accepted the report — and one of the councilors is a lawyer working for the State Attorney General’s office.
    Once again, a handful of the mayor’s supporters are trying to make the public believe the entire city government is in a conspiracy when there is no proof at all. These people have made a mockery of the charter commission and called into question its integrity.
    What a shame.

  2. Griff: maybe you could once again link to the Everett report2 which will show the reading public what a truly “shoddy” piece of work it is. One cannot claim to be an investigator and investigate only one side of an issue. Well, I’ll correct myself; one CAN do just that and then risk an allegation of “shoddy” by another attorney who happens to be the Chair of the court appointed Charter Commission.
    If a person wishes to read at a more convenient location than on-screen, the report (Everett2) is also in the Public Library; ask for it at the reference desk.

  3. Anne, regarding your comment.

    I think it is inexcusable to hire an employee of an engineering firm to supervise that engineering firm. It is just stupid.

    It is NOT a conflict of interest if Dave Maroney would like Al Roder’s job and points out all of Al Roder’s mistakes. That is what normal people do, although I am not endorsing Dave Maroney or making claims that he is normal, nor do I have any statistics to prove that citizens like to point out mistakes made by their city.

    So, I guess it is just my opinion that when the city hires someone they should make sure that someone is acting in the CITY’s best interest, and not looking out for their other, permanent employer that they will return to after working for the city. I would not trust Bolten & Menk to supervise themselves.

  4. Jane: thank you for your comments. It seems that now we, as citizens, are not divided just on issues, but have become adversarial with personal points of view that differ, regardless of the value or content of the issue.

    Anyone who reads Everett 2, and reads the contracts and resolutions included in the support documents, will have questions. None of the questions Mr. Maroney asked, or issues he raised, are answered except for denial by those interviewed. And only city staff POV was represented in those interviews.

    IMHO, Mr. Everett found himself in a quandry when “investigating” the issue. Reading the report, with even just a reader’s understanding of the contents as presented, allows you to see that Mr. Everett raises many questions of his own, without asking them as such.

    How the council could accept this (actually I don’t think they have, formally, at a meeting! ) shows the extreme polarization of factions.

  5. Kiffi et al:

    I have not read the Everett report. I do not need to in order to know that hiring an engineering firm to supervise itself is not very smart business. I think the citizens of Northfield should publicly berate the city council for even thinking, in the remotest way, that it should hire a Bolten & Menk employee to supervise Bolten & Menk work. Al Roder should be questioned at length. As usual, I ask “What were they thinking?”

    I really don’t care if Maroney, his buddy Bullert, or their firms were in the running for the job. It would have made sense to hire them over Bolten & Menk if they are awarding the work to Bolten & Menk.

    Unfortunately, Northfield seems to want to hire consultants for all sorts of reasons except for where they might actually save money and safeguard the city against shoddy work. I wish I could think of a reason for them to hire me as a consultant, as I like the pay scale.

    Saying that, now everyone will think I have a conflict of interest.

  6. Jane: I agree that you do NOT have to have read the report to know that you don’t designate a principal of your engineering contracting firm as the city engineer… BUT everything in Northfield has gotten to be so personally adversarial (following the council’s lead, i guess) that reason no longer prevails.
    If one unequivocally supports the council and administrator, then one will NOT question the”independent”investigator’s report; if one feels that the mayor is not all wrong, then by holding that opinion, they are thought to be a small group of destructive individuals that will not allow the city to move forward.

    All reason, and critical thinking, has been abandoned to partisanship, and be d—-d if you disagree with the powers that be.

    That is why I urge people to read the Everett 2 report; If one reads it, and still finds it to be a credible investigation, then I think viewpoints are just too entrenched to be open to information, or more accurately, lack of information.

    The questions must be asked; unfortunately sitting on that dais, under that big banner of PR, does not make our city council inclined to answer.

  7. Northfield should consider hiring Tim Morisette as a Consulting City Attorney to review the quality of Maren Swanson’s position.

  8. Posted to the Nfld News website last night: Swanson says commission misinterpreted charter.

    The city’s attorney is refuting a Charter Commission assertion that the charter was “likely” violated and finds the commission has no authority to make such a claim. In a five-page letter dated March 21, Swanson says the Charter Commission has inaccurately interpreted the charter, erroneously believing that the city engineer is an officer of the city. 

    We’ll have Charter Commission Chair Peter Dahlen on this week’s podcast, recorded later today and aired on KYMN tomorrow at 5:30 pm. 

  9. Wow, I don’t know whether it was working while sick or just the desire to get this over with before she went on a much-needed vacation, but Maren Swanson quit trying to be diplomatic and spelled out the issues directly and in no uncertain terms.
    Her conclusion is absolutely unequivocal. She said there is no point in responding further to these accusations because the people making them refuse to accept the answers, no matter who provides them.
    The council must heed Ms. Swanson’s advice and put an end to this. If the individuals making the accusations want to continue this, they should hire their own attorneys, who will continue to tell them the same thing — and hand the bills to them instead of the taxpayers.

  10. Anne – I agree that legal action never solves political battles. I was trying (and failing) at humor in that Tim M could not accept oversight of Maren S out of conflict of interest being they work for the same firm – which seemed analogous to the engineer issue addressed in Maren’s letter.

    Many (maybe even all) transactions in a small city will tend to have conflicts of interest if one chooses to see them in that light. My estimate would be the engineer was just trying to be a good guy and help out as the mayor was just trying to be a good guy and build a building.

    Northfield will not thrive by it’s political operatives taking pride in being obstructionist.

  11. Today’s Nfld News editorial: Commission lacks authority to probe.

    We assume that it is the commission’s passion for the charter – and not politics – that drives it. While that is noble, there is no legal basis for it. The charter commission’s involvement here is unnecessary, potentially costly and could create yet more conflict the city doesn’t need.

  12. Nfld News Managing Editor Jaci Smith wrote about the Everett II report in her blog a few weeks ago. I’m trying to square her irritation with attorneys Bill Everett and Cliff Greene in that blog post with the editorial that appears today in which, I assume, she’s a co-author.

    Peter was clear in our podcast yesterday that investigation and enforcement is not within the authority of the Charter. But this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t ask questions and request answers.  This is complex stuff and it seems to me that Commission members are entitled to weigh in with their knowledge, opinions, and inquiries, just like they did last year with the flap over some councilors’ reactions to Judy Dirks’ remarks.

    OTOH, I do think the Council has the right to say to City Attorney Maren Swanson, “don’t spend any more time/money on this.” But they may want to wait to see what the State Auditor has to say first.

  13. Triumvirate:

    This comment may seem premature, but I’d be very interested in a thread for discussions with people who are interested in running for Mayor in the fall (including Lee Lansing, if he is interested). I mention this because there are a large number of issues on which I want to know a potential nominee’s opinion before I vote; adequate discussion will take quite a bit of time. That’s compounded by (according to what I hear) a primary so that only two names are on the ballot in November, and by the intervening summer months. I think we need a long vetting season for this election, and even identifying interested parties may take some time.

    Thanks,
    Felicity

  14. Good idea, Felicity – no doubt as we get closer to the election, we’ll set up something like that. Maybe that can be our first official LoGroNo time-limited discussion forum, as Griff et al have done in the past.

    In any case, depending upon when people announce their candidacy (or when we know they’ve filed) we’ll have time for at least SOME substative discussion, I hope.

    Now I’m off to read Everett II, which until now I’ve still not seen…. back with more thoughts later.

  15. Okay. I’ll go out on a limb and vigorously disagree with a bunch of people whom I love and respect. You know who you are.

    I read Everett 2. It doesn’t strike me as “shoddy” or “incomplete” or any of the other terms I’ve heard bandied about. It’s simply a legal opinion with relevant facts and exhibits. We’ve now had two legal professionals (Maren Swanson, William Everett), with decades of municipal law experience, look at the facts and determine that neither state law nor city ordinances were violated in this situation.

    As I mentioned in the podcast, my experience with Maren Swanson has led me to conclude that as City Attorney, she takes a legally conservative stance in order to cover the city’s ass. So she should; that’s why we have a City Attorney. So when someone like Maren, whose bent is to err on the side of caution, says that no violation of state law or the City’s ethics ordinance occurred, that’s credible to me.

    (Oh, wait! I think I hear David L. in the background) FULL DISCLOSURE: My husband is a partner in the same firm with Maren Swanson, who does civil work for the City, and Tim Morisette, who handles the criminal stuff. Thank God my husband doesn’t do any of it, but still, the relationship is there.)

    I am perfectly content to accept the concurring legal opinions of the two attorneys (municipal law specialists) who’ve looked into this. Whether “we” (citizens, Charter Commission, Council, whomever) want to revise our ordinances to prevent this sort of situation occurring in the future is a relevant, but totally separate, question. I’d rather focus on that question than continue unproductive wrangling by non-lawyers about whether these legal opinions are technically correct.

    What’s the best way to move forward? And am I missing something here?

  16. Tracy: I’ll bite.

    I have sufficient experience as a citizen in a municipality where I see contractors, especially contractors like Bolten & Menk, come in and make mince-meat of the citizen (non-professional) city council by claiming their vast experience. These contractors are motivated to make as much money off the city as possible.

    A city as big as Northfield has STAFF professionals who can supervise these contractors and look out for the citizens.

    When Northfield hires the contractor to supervise themselves, they have negated any safeguards to the citizen.

    I don’t care if it is legal. That is very nice that Maren could watch out for the poor city council—but who is looking out for the citizens and their tax dollars?

    This is common sense. Where is everybody’s brains?

  17. Jane, I don’t disagree that we need to re-evaluate our current policy as reflected in our ordinances. I’m just saying that it’s a separate issue from whether or not a legal violation occurred.

  18. Tracy: Unfortunately we seem to basing our judgement on whether there is a legal violation rather that what is the right thing to do.

    So the city council can claim they did everything legally. I would say that is a very stupid way for a city council to decide what it should do for its citizens.

    I want my city council to do what is best for everyone involved, and sometimes that means some people lose out. I don’t like the idea that they are doing what is legal and then what is best for Bolten & Menk and what is easiest for them as a city council. That could turn out to be very expensive for the city, and its citizens.

    So, I see the charter commission trying to shake some sense into the city council, and the city council having its pit bull say nah nah nah to the charter commission rather than looking at a mistake they made in hiring the fox to watch the henhouse. Why can’t they just admit it was stupid and they will try to do better? NO. They hired a consultant at great expense to the citizens to prove that it is legal for them to do something stupid.

    So I guess it will take an ordinance that will say that the city shouldn’t do dumb things like hiring an engineering firm to supervise itself. Maybe we could call it the “anti stupid ordinance.” I think it might even be good to amend the charter to make it illegal to do such stupid things.

  19. Jane, I’m completely on-board with the anti-stupidity ordinance, but suspect it may be difficult to enforce.

    Just because a person (or governing body) has the right to do something, it’s therefore right to do. That’s why I’m glad the Charter Commission is trying to shine some light on the issue, and I agree that we should lobby our elected representatives to review an ordinance that would allow this situation.

    But again – that’s a totally separate issue from the question of whether or not a legal/ethical violation occurred, and I don’t think it helps things to confuse the two.

  20. Tracy:

    My point is that your point is pointless. Maren should be advising the city council on how to make smart decisions, not charging them to say that the stupid thing that was done was perfectly legal.

    Our hired advisors do not advise–they paper the backsides.

    The city council is not trying to do what is right, they just want to avoid the “appearance” of doing something illegal.

    Doesn’t anybody care about substance over form?

  21. Jane, the City Attorney’s job description does not include “advising the city council on how to make smart decisions”. The City Attorney is an advisor on legal matters, period.

    I have wondered, though, whether the city has an attorney review all their employment or consulting contracts.

  22. Jane,

    I care about substance over form. However, what constitutes “smart decisions” is not a legal or a Charter question. It’s a democratic one.

    The Councilmembers’ are the ones we have chosen to determine what is smart. That’s what we elect them for, and we can elect them out for failing to do the smart thing.

    The role of the Charter (and its Commission) is to lay down the guidelines, and the role of the lawyers is to make sure what the Council does is legal.

    Each has their appropriate role, and should strive to fulfill that particular role to the best of their abilities.

  23. Excuse me, I really don’t want to rehash all of this, but I must point out a detail here. Maren Swanson was careful to say that the city made sure there wasn’t a conflict of interest by having a separate firm oversee the 5th Street work. This seems to have been a deliberate and careful effort to handle a short-term vacancy without jeopardizing long-term work. The firm did not supervise itself, nor did it authorize any spending or make decisions on bids.
    That means that in addition to being quite legal, it was not stupid. And it’s not out of line with practices in other small towns facing similar situations.
    This constant assumption that people in City Hall are stupid or unethical or both seems to fly in the face of the city’s attempt to portray itself as a such a friendly city. Frankly, this is one of the few things I don’t love about Northfield.

  24. Dear Tracy: ……And you know how highly I respect you! Here’s a basic question: How valid is the opinion of the city attorney when she is interpreting for her client? (And yes, I like and respect Maren Swanson, and think she’s been in an untenable situation the last year)
    And another basic question: How valid is the “independant” investigation when it only looks at and interviews one side of the equation? (and was an employee of Cliff Greene etc, etc)
    And another basic question: How would you then validate those “In-service opinion to that of the Chair of the Charter Commission, who is also an Attorney, and possibly the most un-attached professional involved in this controversy?Questions 1,2,&3, and i will certainly respect your answer……..

  25. Patrick: Yes, each part has their role. And after someone is elected, you are stuck with their decisions–right, wrong, stupid and smart, until the next election (usually.) It is not practical to “throw the bums out” on a weekly or monthly basis. So, hopefully citizens occasionally participate by letting their elected officials know how they feel.

    Unfortunately, I am under the misguided notion that hired professionals will help our elected officials, knowing that elected officials need guidance in order to understand what is normally done in certain situations, that, hopefully, in which the professional will have some related experience.

    Tracy, my remarks were “off the cuff” on “making smart decisions.” Let me restate. I find it sad that hired professionals limit their interaction with the city council by such a narrow definition. It appears to be to cover their own back sides (when they are not covering the city councils’.)

    In a reasonable world, I would expect an attorney to be a trusted advisor who gives advice, not a forensic attorney who comes up with a legal explanation after the fact.

    I am glad you are all happy that it was perfectly legal. It does not make it very smart, or even a little smart. Maren Swanson’s statements are regarding the Charter Commissions right to raise certain issues with the city. Great, we have a legal pronouncement that says the city council doesn’t have to respond.

    How about the city council responding to citizen concerns that they hired a temporary employee who had ongoing ties to a repeat contractor with the city?

    The hiring of Mark Kasma has the appearance of conflict-of-interest. The fact that he has ongoing ties with Bolten & Menk takes it beyond appearance. Just because it does not meet a legal threshold (per Maren Swanson) does not make it good, smart or right.

    Northfield is not located in the boonies. There are many, many engineers seeking employment from which to choose for interim or temporary positions. Northfeild did not choose wisely–and none of the professionals foresaw their mistake. It seems a mad scramble to cover up and place the blame on the Charter Commission and pesky citizens.

    The city did not do anything illegal. Great. How many thousands did that cost?

  26. Jane: You have hit the nail right on the head several times in your comments.

    We, as citizens have every right in the world to tell our elected officials we don’t like what they are doing…….without waiting for the next election. Am I mistaken that that is the purpose of a representative gov’t. ? Is this still a small town in MN, in the USofA?

    This attitude, held by some, that anything is OK if somehow an almost “tortured “legal argument is found, is just ludicrous. You can make a legal argument to support almost any point, if you use the language intelligently.

    This city council, and administrator, and some staff, are fond of getting their way by “bullying”. ( Has everyone forgotten the Judy Dirks incident? The administrator attacked a citizen after she had gone and some of the council joined in).

    They aren’t there for themselves. Yes, we elected them to make decisions, and we have every right to tell them when we don’t like the decisions they make.

    Here’s an example: At the council meeting where the skateboard park was being voted on, a councilor made a whole case for another location by saying that no citizen at spoken, at the comment section,FOR Ames park.
    But that was NOT true; there was a long and very eloquent reasoned citizen comment about that being the perfect place. But the councilor kept going on and on about how important it was that no one had spoken FOR Ames. So another citizen put in a card, and was allowed to speak, and reminded the council that there had been support for Ames. The councilor then roundly criticized both the citizen for submitting a card, and the mayor for allowing the comment. POINT BEING, citizens need to be able to respond; comments were allowed all during the Woodley St. process whenever response was prompted by council discussion.

    This council has proved over and over to be citizen service adverse, and they will dig their heels in every time, rather than respond to the issue raised. They take out their angst with the mayor, on the citizens.

    Furthermore, people are becoming afraid to speak because of threats implied, stated publicly, ridicule in various places (including staff reports),the bullying attitudes displayed, treating the council chambers like a courtroom, etc., etc.,etc.,

    So, keep saying it, Jane, and keep taking the criticism that brings, and when all the facts, and votes are in, it just MAY be possible to sort it all out.

  27. Jane and Kiffi,

    Of course we should offer advice to our elected officials while they’re in office, attempting to persuade the to act in the way we feel is best. However, in the end, those decisions are the responsibility of those elected officials. Not the lawyer’s, and not the Commission’s.

    I have not had time to decide whether or not I think this was a good or smart decision. I’m just glad to see that at least in this case, there seems to be no compelling argument that an illegal action was taken.

  28. Kiffi and Jane, I’ll take one more crack at this, because I still can’t determine whether you don’t understand the point I’m trying to make, or whether we simply disagree.

    My position is:

    • That the statutes and ordinances governing what constitutes a conflict of interest are detailed and clear.
    • That it’s not enough for something to have the “appearance” of conflict of interest; other criteria are used to determine whether such conflict of interest exists.
    • That two experience legal professionals have determined that no legal conflict of interest exists in the above case.
    • That it’s possible for something to be legal, but stupid.
    • That it is now up to the citizens to put pressure on their elected officials if they believe there is a “loophole” in city ordinances that should be closed.

    It generates more heat than light to continue pushing the idea of “YES! CONFLICT OF INTEREST HAS OCCURRED!” in the face of two legal opinions to the contrary. If we don’t like the current policy, let’s work to change it. That’s a completely separate issue from whether or not a conflict occurred. Not liking the process of the investigation is also a separate issue. We will be able to make more headway on the real issues of policy and process if we can drop the argument about whether or not the Kasma hiring was legal/ethical.

    Now, in case this isn’t implicit in my comments above, I’ll attempt to answer your questions in your comment #31.

    Question 1: I don’t understand the question.

    Question 2: A legal investigator has to review all pertinent documents and interview and speak to people with direct, first-hand knowledge of events. It isn’t “one-sided” to do so. Everett spoke to Maroney enough to determine that he did not have direct first-hand knowledge.

    Question 3: Sorry, I’m not sure I understand this question either, but I’ll take a stab at it. I believe both Dave Maroney and the Charter Commission are providing a helpful and necessary service to the citizens AND the city in asking these questions and raising these issues. The issue of whether or not a legal conflict of interest occurred in the specific instance of the City’s hiring the services of Mark Kasma has been answered.

  29. Ok, Tracy, I will try again to explain my position. I do not take a legal definition as the end of the road. It simply means that a violation of specific laws or rules did not happen.

    The “opinion” of legal experts does not make something right, correct, prudent, smart, stupid, etc. etc. It only says that THEY say it was not a violation of statute or rule.

    There are many times that I disagree with the highest COURT ruling where a judge says that they have studied the law. Like, for example every time Justice Clarence Thomas says something, I picture him studying the law–and immediate dismiss his opinion as uneducated and poorly trained.

    When OJ was acquitted, he wasn’t innocent. I know lots of people who fight tickets and other more serious infractions in court, and they may have their cases dismissed or the charge reduced. It doesn’t mean they didn’t do it. Sometimes it just means the cop couldn’t show for the hearing.

    The city, as a matter of policy, should not hire their major engineering contractor to act as a city engineer. Said “non-employee” has ties–employment and ownership–in a firm that is contracting with the city. Whether or not there is a legal violation does not make it OK.

    In fact, it is a conflict of interest–he cannot follow two masters, so IF he has a choice to make, where is he going to land.

    Maren and a whole slew of legal professionals can tell me there is no conflict until they are blue in the face. I can see the facts for myself. He has two bosses, and he may decide for his permanent employer and away from the boss I am worried about, the City of Northfield. This is not a difficult concept. Just because something is legal does not make it right.

    There appears to be a failure of administration at the city. This problem would have gone away if Al Roder had recognized the problem and either never hired the engineer in question or, after the fact, explain that he recognizes at least why the public would have the perception of conflict of interest, and promise to manage more prudently. Instead, we have a big bruhaha of whether it was legal or not to hire an engineer for the firm that has all or most of the engineering contracts with the city.

    Maren’s explanation is that since he was not an employee, there is no conflict (for legal purposes.) Right.

    You may be satisfied that all is right with the world because Maren said so. I am not, and I am not alone. Nowhere did Maren or the Everett report address the problem, policial, perception-wise, and financially of hiring an engineer from a firm that has the contract for all the major capital improvement projects in the city, and fail to discuss the issue of conflict-of-interest.

    I will make my statement on what should have happened. Al Roder should have recommended the hiring with a lengthy explanation of why no one else was available for the job and the procedures in place to safeguard the city against any conflicts that may arise out of the fact of this person’s dual employment. Then an informed decision could have been made by the city council, and they could have referred to the explanations upon query by citizens. I think a prudent city administrator would have been looking out for the city and the city council, too, as this was certainly a forseeable outcome of the decision. This expensive little romp for legal opinions would have all been avoided.

  30. Jane, thank you for taking the time to spell this out; I think I understand your position a bit better now, and agree with most of it.

    So…. where do we go from here? Should we lobby our City Council to change the policy that allowed this?

  31. Guest column in today’s Nfld News by David Emery: Real issue is lack of common sense. (Byline reads “David Emery is a Northfield resident. Although a member of the Charter Commission, he writes on his own behalf. The preceding opinion is not that of the Charter Commission.”

    I think we can learn two things from this debacle: The city’s processes for hiring professionals and consultants need to be improved. The city code or charter needs to be amended so that consultants hired by the city are subject to their provisions.

  32. Posted to the Nfld News website at 7pm tonight: Auditor backs investigator: contracting practices sound.
    http://northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=23025

    The state auditor won’t look into city engineering contracts, saying the city has sufficiently reviewed the matter… City Administrator Al Roder said the auditor’s decision reflects “what we’ve been saying all along. I felt the city was exonerated when the (independent) investigator said the were no improprieties,” he said. “The state auditor’s review is another step in the process. It’s unfortunate we have to keep shopping for the answers we want.”

  33. You need to read back in this thread to see that not everyone will be satisfied with this opinion by the auditor, although it will most likely have to be accepted.

    The Everett report #2 is a perfect example of Mr. Roder’s statement above, “It’s unfortunate we have to keep shopping for the answers we want”.

    That’s a very telling statement to make, in the exact words Mr. Roder used.

    The Everett reports were examples of successful “shopping trips”.

  34. I’m lifting this statement out of Jane’s post #36 from 3 months ago,”…Just because something is legal does not make it right.” Hmmmmmm. If legality is beside the point, then what standard are we to use to determine right and wrong? In this partucular case, it would seem that right and wrong is relative to the opinion of the individual. This sounds more like anarchy rather than rule of law.

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