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County's lawyer: man in middle

County Attorney Garth Coller found himself in a rather strange situation Tuesday.

First, he presented commissioners with the terms of departure for County Administrator Paul McIntosh.

Then, he told them to take the deal.

"I was a little uncomfortable with that," Commissioner Chris Kingsley said. "I thought if Paul wanted to use an attorney, he should have been using his own."

Under normal circumstances, Coller would have worn a single hat: the county attorney. Either McIntosh or his attorney, Robert F. McKee, would have been before the commission, presenting the terms.

But neither McKee nor McIntosh was in town, and Coller _ along with commission Chairwoman Nancy Robinson _ had spent Monday hammering out a negotiated settlement that would let McIntosh leave and help the county avoid a potentially expensive lawsuit.

Coller was not acting as McIntosh's mouthpiece, Robinson said Wednesday. Instead, he was just handling a difficult situation as best he could, given its rapid development.

"In this case, Mr. Coller was not acting as a surrogate," Robinson said Wednesday. "He was providing information provided to him. These negotiations were handled via telephone. This was negotiated very quickly and accepted by the board with minimal concern. Change was necessary for the good of the county."

Commissioner Diane Rowden agreed.

"I have to have confidence that Garth Coller was handling things the best he could for the board," she said.

Coller did not return calls from the Times seeking comment.