To the editor:
On Oct. 24, I was referenced in this newspaper in an article in connection with three city councilors and an administrator being challenged with having “conflicts of interest” involving the Kraewood project. The article then reported “Thacker provided no evidence of the alleged violations.”
This statement is inaccurate.
Earlier in the vexed approval process of Kraewood, two additional city councilors had recused themselves when they faced potential conflicts of interest on other matters. I applaud their honesty. In the alleged violations that I sought to address, multiple citizens had come to me with concerns about officials’ behavior, from Greenvale parents reporting being harassed by a city councilor while picking up children at school to citizens claiming that a councilor clearly was engaging in significant business dealings with a developer while voting on the same developer’s project. I engaged an attorney to prepare a letter to the city attorney and mayor providing names, photos, and a website screenshot. These were not baseless claims: Multiple citizens were willing to speak to these matters had the city attorney asked.
He did not.
At a City Council meeting on Oct. 19, after I had presented my questions to the city council in person, Attorney Hood responded, “he had spoke (sic) with the affected councilors and was satisfied that there was no conflict.” When I wrote and asked him for more details about how he conducted his investigation, Mr. Hood refused to respond.
It appears that this investigation of three councilors and the city administrator was conducted solely by the city attorney. This is problematic. The city council hires the city attorney, and the city administrator supervises him. So at least in this case, the city attorney’s livelihood depends upon the approval of the very people he was investigating.
I ask, “Shouldn’t our city government conduct independent internal investigations?” No city official committed a major crime, but I remain concerned that several did not act with impartiality. I have no interest in pursuing this legal matter further over a fait accompli. However, I am interested in seeing our officials adhere to their own code of conduct and act with unquestioned integrity in all matters.
Yes, we live in small town and many people who serve the city have crisscrossing relationships with those who do business in it. Yet, as my attorney observed about these ethical issues, “It all seems just a little bit too chummy, doesn’t it?”
Editor's Note: The newspaper stands by its reporting that Bob Thacker provided no evidence that three council members and the city administrator had a conflict of interest related to the Kraewood project at the Oct. 19 meeting.