Citing ethics, city attorney denies legal advice to waterfront opponent

City Attorney Jim Banks

City Attorney Jim Banks says threats of a lawsuit against the city’s proposed waterfront plan kept him from advising former Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald on how to block rezoning of the Potomac shoreline.

Macdonald, co-founder of Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan, wrote officials December 7 asking for clarification of city ordinances outlining the way by which residents could require a supermajority vote by city council. In his reply, Banks said he was “ethically precluded” from answering the question and advised Macdonald to find an attorney.

Were CAAWP or other residents to sue, which they have publicly suggested as a tactic to forestall the city’s contentious waterfront plan, a good lawyer would immediately file a motion to disqualify the city attorney’s office from the case, Banks said.

Either Macdonald is “naïve” or it’s a cunning legal maneuver, the city attorney said. Banks assumes the latter.

“It is a clever way to keep me from representing my client [the City of Alexandria],” Banks said. “There is clearly sufficient evidence to conclude he is going to sue … I’ve got to operate on the assumption they are going to do what they said they are going to do. I cannot allow myself, and my office, to fall for a clever maneuver by Mr. Macdonald and that is what it comes down to.”



  1. The city is defending itself in 6 different lawsuits brought by citizens. So who does the City’s attorney represent? Citizens or City Hall. We need a city attorney who works for the citizens of Alexandria, not the special interests.