Peter Nickles, general counsel for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, usually relishes a low-key, behind-the-scenes approach in his dealings as the mayor’s consigliere. But this week Nickles has had to deal with a lot more attention than he’s used to in the wake of Attorney General Linda Singer‘s resignation on Monday.

He’s kept pretty quiet since then. LL caught up with Nickles in his Wilson Building office today on his way out to lunch and had a brief conversation with the man about the proper roles of the attorney general and the general counsel.

“I think among adults, the distinction is pretty clear,” Nickles said. That distinction, he explained, lies in which legal matters lie in the realm of policy and which matters have more to do with enforcement.

“It’s always been clear in matters of policy,” said Nickles. “Policy has to be vetted with the mayor and the senior staff….We need vigorous discussion.”

Matters of law enforcement, Nickles said, need to be dealt with more independence from the mayor. “You don’t pull your punches on law enforcement,” he said.

“Good lawyers understand the distinction,” he said.

Nickles went on to explain that the division of labor is inherently fuzzy in an administration with an attorney general appointed by the mayor. An elected attorney general, he said, wouldn’t have the same turf problems: “They run on a platform…and those guys don’t consult on anything,” he said, citing former New York AG and now Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Nickles expressed tentative support for the District electing its attorneys general, but that would require Congress to amend the Home Rule Act, and Nickles discounted the chances of that happening any time soon. “If we ever have Congress move into the 20th century, we’d have a little bit of home rule,” he says.

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