‘Conflict’ disclosure added to Glenwood Springs City Council agenda
Glenwood Springs City Council has added a new item on its bi-weekly, public meeting agenda — “Conflict of Interest Disclosure.”
At Thursday’s regular City Council meeting, following the Pledge of Allegiance and before citizens may speak to their elected officials regarding items not already on the evening’s agenda, the mayor and councilors will have an opportunity to let their constituents know of any conflict of interest related to any items up for information, discussion and/or action.
Glenwood Springs Mayor Michael Gamba told the Post Independent Wednesday that the new, standing item grew out of a general discussion by council regarding “whether or not other council members had conflicts of interest on certain topics.
“As a result, we have decided to put this in as a regular agenda item preceding every meeting, during which time each council member will identify any potential conflicts that they have with any items on the agenda prior to the meeting,” Gamba said.
When asked if the recent decision had anything to do with discussions in recent months about policies governing vacation rentals in Glenwood Springs, Gamba replied, “That was one of the issues that one council member raised that they believed that another council member had a conflict.”
He added, “That was one of those issues; there were a number of issues.”
The Glenwood Spring’s Municipal Code covers conflicts of interest, disclosure and disqualification, stating, “Any Council Member with a substantial interest in a transaction with the City shall give notice of the interest to the City Council and to the City Manager as soon as reasonably possible after the interest has risen.”
Furthermore, the city’s Municipal Code defines “substantial interest,” in this specific case, as, “Any present interest by a Council Member or appointee, including without limitation a pecuniary interest in the outcome of a transaction or a family relation with a person directly involved in a transaction, which would cause a reasonably prudent person observing the transaction to expect a marked tendency by the Council Member or appointee to make a decision other than an objective decision.”
However, “The term substantial interest shall not be construed to include an interest which is purely speculative or hypothetical.”
“We have just now begun to ask councilors at the beginning of regular meetings to self-identify where they have a conflict of interest, and that is a critical step forward,” Ward 2 City Councilor Rick Voorhees said.
“What the public should demand is that councilors will not try to influence any agenda item in which they are conflicted, and that should include leaving the discussion,” Voorhees said. “That is a high bar during public meetings, but means also that councilors should be bound not to say or do anything prior to that meeting that could be seen as an attempt to influence that decision.”
Ward 5 City Councilor Jonathan Godes told the Post Independent, “When I worked for other municipalities, the internal standard and expectation was that anyone associated with the city — council, board, commissions, staff — who had an appearance of a conflict of interest, should recuse themselves.
“Our council does not share this same standard, but has taken steps lately to publicly disclose if they have an interest that could give the appearance of a conflict,” Godes said.
Voorhees additionally stated that, “Our public also needs to know that it is not automatically illegal or unethical for councilors to have a financial conflict of interest in decision items. Potential conflicts in property and business ownership by individual councilors and/or their immediate families cannot be avoided in our small town.”
That was a sentiment Godes and Gamba seemed in line with, as well.
“So many of us on council are professionally tied to real estate and development projects,” Godes said. “It is difficult to have all of these projects we are trying to do right now, without bumping against someone’s interest somewhere in town.”
Added Gamba, “I have recused myself a number of times, as have other council members. Because we have a conflict does not mean that there is something inappropriate going on.”
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