Conflictof interest alleged

Published on Thu, Oct 20, 2005 by Meg Olson

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Conflict of interest alleged

By Meg Olson

Former Blaine City Council member David White is planning to take the city to court over what he says are “conflicts of interest and malfeasance” at city hall.

At the October 10 city council meeting White brought city council members an “investigative report” he said documented evidence planning commissioner Brad O’Neill and council member Bruce Wolf acted in conflict of interest supporting the city’s boardwalk proposal as both own properties that will be connected to that amenity.

“What you have is three years of conflicts when these people made decisions on the boardwalk when they owned property on that side of the street,” White said. “The council had inside information long before the public did and Mr. Wolf and Mr. O’Neill should have abstained from those discussions.”

White’s report covers planning commission, city council, and Blaine Tourism Advisory Committee minutes from the last five years, as well as emails from the city planning division.

In the report White documents 10 occasions since June 2002 when city council voted on aspects of the boardwalk project, in one of which Wolf recused himself because he owned property affected by the project. Wolf also recused himself from a vote in the central business district regulations, which have provisions regarding the boardwalk, but not from earlier votes on city regulations and planning that could potentially affect the project. Wolf purchased 633 Peace Portal Drive in 2002 for $145,000 and though he indicated he had sold the property in June the county auditor still lists the parcel under the ownership of a limited company with his Blaine address.

The report also includes planning commission minutes that document O’Neill’s vocal support for the boardwalk project and his participation in discussion and votes about downtown business regulations and project proposals. O’Neill did recuse himself from the vote approving the development permit for the boardwalk on the grounds he “would have hopefully gained financial benefit from the boardwalk.” O’Neill purchased a small undeveloped parcel at the north end of the proposed boardwalk site in 2000 for $47,000.

“Is the city council going to initiate its own investigation and get rid of the responsible people, in what is clearly corruption?” White asked council members. He added that if the city didn’t take the matter up he intended to send his report to the state attorney general.Council members gave no indication they would consider White’s allegations. “I’m not aware of any legal action at this point,” said city manager Gary Tomsic. “Our city attorney has looked at these issues,” and Tomsic said attorney Jon Sitkin did not feel the council members had acted in conflict of interest.