In an effort to put the issue to rest, Councilmember Jason Tossey recommended hiring an independent attorney or the state auditor look at the situation as well as two potential EDA situations.
One of the EDA members voted to authorize a sewer and water access fee waiver for his landlord and a second voted to approve a subsidy for a restaurant for which he now works, Tossey said.
“Let’s look at all potential conflicts,” he said.
Tossey has criticized my not featuring his worries on Crabgrass; while I told Tossey I think he is chasing ghosts, but if he wants it done it is his concern and duty, not mine.
EDA is different. EDA members are appointed by council, not elected for fixed four year terms, and the council at any time can for any reason or no reason change EDA personnel.
And while new council members get LMC orientation sessions including advice in advance on conflicts of interest, EDA members are appointed and begin serving without any orientation even mentioning that there is a state statute controlling EDA entities, including a conflict of interest provision; MS Ch. 469.
The routine situations discussed in the above Sakry quote are separate from a super mega rental deal where by a positive vote making a 4-3 majority that otherwise would not exist, a council-HRA member caused the City to be committed to being a multi-million dollar banker of last resort to a favored developer, after having built a ramp expansion to allow that developer free parking for project tenants.
Bonding to lend millions to a developer is unprecedented and different from concessions to assist a second restaurant effort in Town Center - something of unquestioned public need and benefit; with a precedent of a $200,000 subsidy given the first Town Center restaurant, Acapulco.
Carrying things on from such logic critical of a pair of EDA members, would a council member voting on improvements such as "the Draw" or the Northstar train while owning rental property in Town Center be subject to challenge? Would a planner or city engineer working to implement decided council policy in such situations be subject to challenge? Where should we draw a line?
Any action of course is subject to challenge, but at some point a "silliness" factor intervenes. The point is, for the future, Charter amendment or other ways of providing clarity of bounds for any/all city officials would be an improvement over the inexact status quo.
PERSONAL VIEWPOINT: I believe that any official voting for "the Draw" and/or the Northstar stop in Town Center, and being a landlord on a single-property or few-properties scale (and not somebody like Flaherty or a Flaherty employee or planned employee where a building full of rentals adjacent to the Northstar stop is at play) should give notice of landlord status or employee status simply because it is an easy step to let citizens know, to shed sunlight on things, and people might like to know, but if not done of record in minutes it is not in any way a big worry, or should not be. That would be unlike the Flaherty - big ticket situation. There are scalse of landlordship that DO make a difference.
However, somebody wanting to do a tortured reading of statutes on conflict of interest, MS 471.87 in general for municipal officials (as to criminal liability), and MS Ch. 469 as to EDA and HRA members and others involved in a multi-jurisdicitonal economic development activity such as Northstar corridor; could suggest a tortured reading about almost any vote and potential conflict.
Now, another hypothetical on silliness factors, an employee of City of Elk River, living in Ramsey and on our Council, voting on a Northstar stop in Ramsey, what of that? It is such a remote thing that it's silly to say you work for another city with interests at stake, you should stand down from the table and not speak or vote.
But somebody renting an office from Jim Deal, voting on a restaurant Deal and Wells think is good for Ramsey, having no dog in the hunt re whether there is a restaurant or not and whether or not a SAC or WAC concession is made; in the same sense is a so what who should reasonably care situation?
I believe Tossey's EDA concerns are chasing ghosts, and told him so. Friends and acquaintances not only can disagree, but often do. I believe the Flaherty situation vs. Tossey's EDA concerns is several clear and distinct orders of magnitude more serious, especially dollarwise to the city and in entailing unprecedented levels of subsidy and unprecedented deviation from what I believe a prudent city should do with its own credit and bonding abilities.
Scale and magnitude and unprecedented uniqueness has a place in sensible deliberation, and there is nothing I am aware of that the EDA did re Jim Deal and the Wells restaurant and SAC and WAC, in any sense approaching the scale and magnitude of Flaherty deal cutting; and that scale and magnitude DO have a place in considerations.
It is entirely up to Tossey whether he wants to publicly identify and/or criticize the two individuals in situations he mentioned to Sakry, as her above quoted reporting references. I am aware of names, but decline to remove that option from Tossey's discretion. Tossey somehow believes I should publish or should have published his concerns, and the fact is I do not take requests since that would curb my discretion, which I value and will not compromise.
I offered Tossey the opportunity to author a guest posting, under his name, but he declined. I do not fault Tossey for his feelings or belief, but I get an impression he for some reason faults me, and I feel it is undeserved criticism of which the public deserves notice. Am I saying next chance, don't vote for Jason? Of course not. That kind of decision would be based on his entire pattern of decision making on council, HRA, and, for example, on the City's personnel committee, which has been responsible for terminating some city employee contracts or moving in that direction where other arrangements may have been worked out. This EDA personnel criticism thing is but a small blip on the radar screen, in assessing Jason's decision making judgment while serving Ramsey.
NEED FOR CHARTER REFORM ON CONFLICT OF INTEREST. The entire set of situations and hypotheticals is why I suggest an addition of Charter explicitness re conflicts of interest, and holding orientation sessions for new EDA or HRA people (or where the council appoints itself as identical in personnel to the HRA, as is now the case, orientation of HRA law as well as general municipal law in how it impacts job duties and presents traps for the unwary official). This would be orientation involving discussion of the HRA and EDA statutes, especially re conflict of interest, and it would be a helpful step in streamlining city government in a way aimed at conflict avoidance.
In mentioning Tossey, I believe he would agree that explicitness in setting bounds and in orientation effort to communicate bounds would benefit everybody involved in any way in Ramsey government. He has not said or done anything suggesting otherwise, and in general has shown good sense and experienced judgment.
MCGLONE: Finally, McGlone justifies his family's Flaherty-McGlone employment activity based on an LMC item that says he lacked a gross misdemeanor liability for a conflict of the kind criminalized by MS 471.87. It went no further than that, excluding any thoughts toward disclosure requirements re HRA membership; MS 469.009. From that LMC thing and Goodrich's blessings, McGlone extrapolates he had NO conflict of interest and that anyone criticizing his silence about the Flaherty-McGlone employment is in error. We each have a moral compass of what seems right or not, and my moral compass points quite different from Colin McGlone's when he extrapolates lack of criminal fault per MS 471.87 to "having no conflict." Readers with their own moral compass will make their judgments.
Anyway, voters will judge that issue, as part of the general weighing of McGlone's overall behavior and judgment pattern in office against that to be expected from Kuzma, a successful businessman for over thirty years running an award winning printing business for which Kuzma claims an understanding of the value of having and keeping key competent staff, re his venture's long-term success.
McGlone's record is known, and I am unaware of any aspects of his several personally owned businesses beyond there being several and that one, in contracting with Ramsey for services did $54,000 of work over I believe two years, without incident and without any reason I can see to criticize that contract or the quality of performed services at fair rates under it.
Beyond that, (which I do not fault in terms of cost/benefit to the city and in procedures in the award of the contract), McGlone has a record of behavior and judgment. I believe city government could be improved by a different person representing Ward 2, with Kuzma being the ballot choice besides McGlone.
McGlone voted for and vocally championed Landform on multiple occasions, with over a million city dollars being given to Landform in contracting I dislike intensely as being of little to no benefit to Ramsey.
Also, McGlone championed and cast key votes for all the subsidy to Flaherty, as is known, with a subsequent employment situation arising which I question as conflicted.
It will be an interesting November election.