Conflict of interest or just unethical? | Letters | Aug. 28
August 31, 2009 · Updated 2:32 PM
Ethics is all about perception. The City of Seattle’s ethics code, for example, prohibits a city officer from “engaging in any transaction or activity, which is, or would to a reasonable person appear to be, in conflict with or incompatible with the proper discharge of official duties, or which impairs, or would to a reasonable person appear to impair, the officer’s independence of judgment or action in the performance of official duties and fails to disqualify him or herself from official action in those instances where the conflict occurs.”
Why hasn’t Debbi Lester actively disclosed that she is council member (Debbie) Vancil’s daughter-in-law? A reasonable person might perceive potential conflicts of interest having a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law working together on the same seven-member council. A reasonable person might also anticipate more conflicts of interest because Ms. Lester’s husband (council member Vancil’s son) is a lawyer who is often involved in legal disputes over the city’s land use and development regulations.
When Debbi Lester received Lodging Tax Revenue grants of $15,000 per year from the city in 2005 and 2006, did council member Vancil recuse herself from the voting process? A reasonable person might perceive potential conflicts of interest.
When Debbi Lester spearheaded construction of a gazebo in the right-of-way at Hildebrand and Erickson, as an obstruction strategy to the connection of the two roads, did the action affect council member Vancil’s opinion and vote on the Hildebrand/Erickson connection? A reasonable person might perceive a potential conflict of interest – especially since Ms. Lester didn’t obtain a building permit to build this structure on city-owned right of way.
Yes, Bainbridge is a small island, but is it so small that our seven-member council has to have two (28 percent) members related to each other? And shouldn’t we be seeking council members who freely disclose information that might be perceived by a reasonable person as potential conflicts of interest?