MT. PLEASANT—County Attorney Kevin Daniels, who doubles as Mt. Pleasant’s City Attorney, conducted a public conflict of interest training in behalf of members of the Mt. Pleasant City Council at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.
Interest in Daniel’s presentation was particularly high because three of the five sitting council members are either city employees or contractors who perform considerable work in behalf of the city.
Councilman Sam Draper is the city’s fire chief; Councilman Lynn Beesley is a foreman for the public works department, and Councilman Paul Madsen quite often works for the city in various capacities on a contract basis.
Conflict of interest considerations are nothing new to the city. In the previous administration, former councilman Kevin Stallings, a heating and air conditioning contractor, did considerable business with the city. Former councilman Justin Atkinson’s employer, Sunrise Engineering, had extensive city contracts.
Daniels informed the council that each of them is required under state law to file a conflict of interest statement that discloses their employment or any other connections, including those of close family members, that might be considered a conflict of interest for them in the course of performing their duties as an elected city official.
Daniels said that failure by any or them to disclose a conflict of interest is a violation of state law and could carry a penalty of up to a $100,000 in fines and years of prison time.
The law is receiving particular interest right now because of the case of Dan Clark, a State Parks Service employee, who allegedly awarded several paving contracts, including some “no-bid” jobs, to Colt Paving, which Clark allegedly secretly owned. Although some of the contracts Clark allegedly diverted could not be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations, some could, and Clark was charged by the attorney general in regard to those last week.
Daniels said that anything that directly benefitted a council member or their immediate family could be considered a conflict of interest. The conflict could be on a matter brought before the council for a vote or could be something that simply fell within the council member’s sphere of influence because of who he was or might have an influence over, such as personnel matters or other considerations.
“It’s not just elected officials that have to worry about this,” Daniels said. “The conflict of interest laws apply to all public employees.”
As an example of how strict the laws are, Daniels cited himself as having a potential conflict of interest in a seemingly small thing. He said that while the county provided him with a vehicle to use in the course of his duties as county attorney, he could not legally use that vehicle to drive to Mt. Pleasant to attend a city council meeting in his capacity as Mt. Pleasant’s city attorney.
“It’s something you have to be very careful with,” Daniels advised. “If there’s any question in your mind, don’t do it.”
In other business, considerable discussion was had on where to put new restrooms that are purposed for the city cemetery. No decision was made because much of the funding is supposed to come from grant applications that are currently pending before several agencies, including the Community Impact Board (CIB).
Next, Treasurer David Oxman said the general fund is performing well. He said the city is seeing a considerable increase in sales tax receipts. He said water funds are in excellent shape and that the city is looking at an electric rate increase based on the results of a recent study.
Oxman said the city library is underfunded and that the city should consider moving funding out of the library fund and into the general fund. He suggested that a property tax increase might be needed to cover the shortfall.
Councilman Draper objected, saying that he didn’t favor a tax increase just for the library.
Finally, Oxman stated that several grant applications have been submitted, including a CIB grant application, for the road work needed in the Aspen Village Mobilehome Park.