Recently, several articles about conflicts of interest, have been hitting the political pundit’s websites;
is a very interesting article about conflicts, the appearance of conflicts, and the problems that they cause at the state level. I have no idea if any of the legislators mentioned in this article truly have some ethical conflicts with their businesses doing business with the state or not, but they should each either QUIT doing business with the state or QUIT their legislative positions or post their own article describing why THEIR situation is not a conflict. While we all should be innocent until proven guilty, politicians have a bad enough rap without doing ANYTHING to damage their (or the entire group’s) reputation.
Any politician needs to be extremely careful about even the appearance of a conflict of interest. I was maintaining the city’s website and charging them around $1,000/year. They were my client, before I got into politics. But once I became a city councilman, I stopped charging the city for maintaining their site. I probably COULD have kept charging – as long as we bid out the contract and as long as I recused myself from any discussions or votes, but I thought it best to just not charge the city. So for almost a dozen years, I did the city website for free – saving the city and citizens thousands of dollars.
Later on, as a conflict arose between a local business owner and the city of Hawkinsville (on a very unrelated matter), a particular businesses owner ACCUSED me of having a conflict of interest. She thought I was getting paid to do the city’s website. She had not bothered to ask anyone. That particular business owner posted on Facebook (July 25, 2014) (with a picture of me), “How in the h*** you is the one doing the website for hawkinsville and you on the commission broad the one of the to decide which person get the job if you are on the broad are have friends are family on the broad you should not get the job it wood not be fair to the people the one how broad on it and did not get it because they do not have friends on the broad or family” (all grammar and spellings were as posted, not mine)
This particular business owner even posted this to 11Alive Newsroom’s Facebook page! She had not bothered to CHECK to see if there was a conflict of interest, she just assumed. But as politicians, we need to go the extra mile removing even the appearance of a conflict. (After I sold my website company, the city and county are now getting the Regional Commission out of Macon to maintain their websites.)
I challenge all of my colleagues to go the extra mile and remove any and all appearances of conflicts. Let’s put our constituents first and our private businesses second.
What are your thoughts?
I have been on the city council for 5-6 years now. There have been several times that I have abstained from a vote. When should one abstain? Should I not have an opinion one way or the other? There are suitable times to abstain and even NOT voting can sometimes make a point.
Of course a commissioner should not vote if he/she feels that he/she has a conflict of interest. For example, maybe a family member is involved in a business that is up for a business license. In a small town such as Hawkinsville, there are bound to be conflicts that are unavoidable and it is best to simply abstain from voting rather than give the appearance of inappropriateness.
However, there is another time that I find myself abstaining frequently. The abstaining is meant to make a point while not derailing a legitiment process. The City Fathers, long ago, decided that beer and alcohol could be sold within the city limits. They set up certain proceedures, applications, and guidelines that must be adhered to before a license to sell these items can be obtained. The applicant must past a background check, fees must be paid, and zoning conditions must be met among other stipulations.
Due to personal moral reasonings, I personally would prefer that we do not allow the selling of alcohol within the city limits. But the current law says that one can. The current laws stipulate that if certain conditions are met then a license must be granted. Therefore, if a business jumps through all the hoops, meets the criteria, pays the fees and does all that is required, I cannot in good conscience vote AGAINST granting that license. However, a vote FOR might be construed as supporting the sale of alcohol. Therefore, I normally simply abstain during that vote. The license is normally granted by four yes votes, one abstaining.
Now, suppose I was one of only three commissioners present. In that case a non-vote would actually have the effect of being a NO vote. Should this ever occur, I would, in that case, vote FOR the license. If the business person has done all that is required, then they should get their license.
So, if you ever wonder why I abstain on such votes, it is simply my way of giving my opinion on the subject while NOT derailing the process.
I would love your comments on this post….. Do you agree or disagree? Am I being silly or principled? Should my votes on the council represent my personal beliefs or those of the people that I represent? I am called to always vote with the majority of the people that I represent or did a majority of the people put me in this post because they felt like the majority of my beliefs (if not all) match closely with theirs? Whatcha think?