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Attorney stopped by police for public intoxication after taking part in Eagle City Council meeting

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An attorney with a long history working for the City of Eagle was stopped by an officer who said she appeared intoxicated, moments after a city council meeting she participated in last fall.

According to body cam footage obtained by BoiseDev through a public records request, MSBT Law attorney Cherese McLain had a roughly 12-minute exchange with an Ada County Sheriff’s Deputy outside of Eagle City Hall, but was not arrested for public intoxication.

She eventually accepted a ride home from a meeting attendee after both the deputy and the bystander convinced her she needed to be accompanied off the premise. 

McLain currently contracts with the City of Eagle to handle land use matters in the Foothills Sub-Area, which includes Avimor and Spring Valley, for $235 per hour. Prior to her current contract, McLain’s firm had a contract to serve as the primary city attorney for Eagle for decades. 

City of Eagle spokesperson Ellen Mattila declined to comment on the incident, saying it was against the city’s policy to speak publicly about personnel matters. McLain did not respond to two messages left with her at her office. 

What happened

In mid-November, Eagle City Council held a special city council meeting to discuss the results of an economic study on the impacts of annexing Avimor in the mid-afternoon. During a conversation about water rights, McLain hopped up from her chair to address council about the issue unprompted. Her speech was slurred at points, but one city council member asked her questions as if there was nothing unusual. Mayor Jason Pierce thanked her for her input and she sat down. 

BoiseDev was present at this meeting and there was at least one quiet side comment from the crowd about the lack of clarity in her remarks. 

At approximately 4:30 p.m., Ada County Dispatch logged a call for a welfare check at Eagle City Hall. There was no police report generated about the call because no arrests were made or tickets issued. 

In the bodycam footage of the call, an unidentified deputy found McLain outside of Eagle City Hall with an employee of the Eagle City Clerk’s office and an unidentified woman who attended the meeting. The two women were talking to McLain and pressing her to get a ride home instead of driving. She swore out of frustration when she saw the deputy and the clerk’s office employee went back inside. 

Over the next twelve minutes, the deputy and the other woman talked with McLain about why she should have a ride home.

McLain: ”What did I do wrong?” 

Deputy: “You did nothing wrong yet.”

McLain: “I clearly said something or acted a certain way.”

Deputy: “Do you want me to be straight up with you? It looks like you’re heavily intoxicated and I’m going to have to deal with it on those grounds unless you get a ride home. Right now you can be arrested for public intoxication, but I don’t want to do that. I would rather you get a ride home with your friend and deal with things tomorrow. Does that sound like the best option?

McLain: “No”

Deputy: “Yes it does. Cherese, come on.”

McLain: “Can I ask you not to arrest me?”

Deputy: “You can ask me, but at a certain point I have to do what I have to do.”

McLain: “I don’t want to get arrested.”

Deputy: “It’s so much easier if your friend can give you a ride home.”

As the conversation went on, McLain expressed sadness about this incident potentially leading to her losing her job and asked for the deputy to give her time to think about what to do. About mid-way through the conversation, she noted that she was the city attorney for Eagle when the deputy asked her what brought her to city hall that day. 

Eventually, she relented and went home with the woman who attended the meeting and waited for her. No charges were filed and the deputy told the pair as they were walking away the matter would end there. 

“She’s just going to give you a ride home and that’s it,” the deputy said. “I’m not going to be following you or anything.”

A long history with the City of Eagle

McLain’s firm MSBT Law contracted with the City of Eagle to handle city attorney services for thirty years until January 2019 when the firm ended its relationship with the city. A letter between MSBT and the City of Eagle obtained by KTVB said the city, led by then-Mayor Stan Ridgeway, was asking the firm to take “repugnant” actions, and continuing to represent the city would force the firm to break professional conduct rules or other laws. 

The firm would not give specific examples of what led to the ending of the partnership to KTVB, citing attorney-client privilege. The city repeatedly declined to comment at the time. 

After Ridgeway lost his reelection bid to Pierce in 2019, MSBT returned to the City of Eagle and requested their contract be reinstated. The Idaho Press reported Pierce supported rehiring MSBT, but Eagle City Council voted unanimously to deny signing a contract with the firm again at the end of March 2020. 

Attorneys with MSBT have also been deeply involved in the years of negotiations between the City of Eagle and the Eagle Water Company, both over a 2008 inter-tie agreement to share water between the two entities and talks for the city to potentially buy EWC. 

During the meeting to decide whether to rehire MSBT, one city council member noted there had been complaints with the firm filed with the Idaho State Bar, which MSBT denied, noting it had not been contacted by the organization, according to the Idaho Press. The Idaho State Bar told BoiseDev last week it has never disciplined McLain, but complaints are not released to the public. Complaints are made on an individual basis, not for an entire firm. 

It is unknown if any complaints were made about McLain specifically, or about other MSBT attorneys who worked for Eagle over the years. The Idaho Statesman reported these complaints came from a group of Eagle Water Company customers and some Ridgeway supporters who alleged MSBT violated a city agreement by helping former mayors to discuss buying EWC along with private entities without mentioning the city’s right of first refusal. 

In mid-January, just prior to MSBT ending its relationship with the city, McLain sent an email to EWC notifying them that they had violated the inter-tie agreement and demanding information from the company about its intentions to sell so the city had right of first refusal. This all ended up with the City of Eagle filing suit against Eagle Water Company, which officials eventually settled allowing Suez to purchase the company. 

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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