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Monday, July 8, 2019 by Austin Monitor
Brent Lloyd’s statement in response to allegations
Editor’s Note: On June 3, three members of the Board of Adjustment filed a complaint with the State Bar of Texas alleging that former City Attorney Brent Lloyd had violated the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct by simultaneously representing both the Board of Adjustment and the city of Austin on land use decisions. The state bar has requested a response to the pending grievance. Lloyd has consistently maintained that he was a strong advocate for the Board of Adjustment and stands by the legal services he provided during his tenure as city attorney. Lloyd’s formal statement on the case, which he submitted to the Austin Monitor, is reprinted in full below.
Recently, a member and former member of the city’s Board of Adjustment filed a grievance against me with the state bar association. Because the allegations were made in a highly public fashion and bear on my professional integrity, I am writing to provide context and summarize my position on key issues. This will be my only statement on this matter apart from the formal response I provide to the state bar.
The allegations relate to the Board’s role in considering appeals that challenge decisions made by city staff in the administration, interpretation and enforcement of the city’s zoning regulations. Over the course of several months in 2018-’19, a few Board members publicly advocated changing the Board’s rules of procedure to override requirements for appeals established by city ordinance. The amendments sought, among other things, to authorize the Board to waive mandatory deadlines by which appeals must be filed. I advised the Board, in public, that this course of action was unlawful and that the proposed amendments would violate city code, which the Board is required to follow under state law. I also stated publicly that such a conflict would create confusion and uncertainty for staff, permit applicants and interested parties affected by city decisions concerning land development.
Throughout this time period, several people reached out to me with concerns over the Board of Adjustment’s proposed actions and their potential impacts. These individuals included both members of the Board itself and third parties, some of whom had previously alleged improper conduct on the part of at least one Board member in hearing an appeal. The issues were not confidential legal matters affecting only the Board; rather, they were issues of public record with the potential to broadly impact the city as a whole. My duty was to provide candid and accurate legal advice, not to aid in actions that I concluded were unlawful. I made no misrepresentations to anyone, including the Board, concerning these issues.
Nor did I provide biased or conflicted advice to the Board on appeals pending before them for consideration. On the contrary, I frequently advised the Board on options for overturning decisions by staff on both the overall meaning of city zoning regulations and the approval of construction permits for particular developments. In one case involving the Drenner Group, I advised the Board publicly that they had a sufficient legal basis to reverse decisions by city staff approving permits for the developer represented by Drenner. The public record includes numerous instances of me advising that the Board’s authority to consider appeals should be construed broadly, in favor of providing due process to residents affected by development.
Beyond my role as legal adviser, several years ago I defended the Board in litigation and argued in support of their decision that short-term rentals were not allowed in single-family zones under the code as it existed at that time. I also regularly assisted Austin residents in understanding how to appeal city permitting decisions to the Board and helped craft amendments to city code clarifying important aspects of the process – including the addition of a public notice requirement for decisions on how land uses are classified. This latter amendment, adopted by Council in April 2012, fixed a procedural glitch that was central to the litigation referenced by the grievants.
In short, I was a strong advocate for the Board of Adjustment’s role in hearing appeals and worked hard to make the process more accessible to the Austin community. I stand by the legal services I provided to the Board and am honored to have served as their attorney. The individuals who have served on the Board, including those with whom I have at times disagreed, are hardworking and committed community leaders for whom I continue to have the greatest respect.
Brent D. Lloyd
July 7, 2019
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