McKinney City Council, Let’s Be Adults About Conflicts of Interest

Dear City Council:

Please be mindful of true independence in conjunction with conflicts of interests regarding your decisions to appoint, reappoint or remove members from all they key boards and commissions next Monday night. In particular, I ask that you remove Mr. Robbie Clark from the MEDC. See my previous blog for a more complete explanation: https://citybaseblog.net/2016/03/21/mckinney-city-council-raise-the-bar-lower-the-boom-on-mr-mckinney/

But I want to expand on an issue that goes beyond a single person. It has to do when there is an acknowledged conflict of interest, real or perceived, and a councilmember or board member “steps down.” That all looks good for the camera, but stepping down means you go into another room that has a speaker where you can listen. Actually, that’s not necessary since the down-stepper can simply watch the video the next day to catch the non-verbals.

Let’s be adults about this. It is fully expected that people likely to be on the council or boards will at least occasionally have a conflict. But in reality, everybody usually understands the conflict. Yet most people in governance would realize that if the remaining members vote against the item of interest, woe to the wicked, Sancho, the next time the no-votes want something passed. After 43 years in the business, I don’t need a lecture on politics. But I have also seen the genuinely brave and principled individuals who won’t sell their soul to be elected.

So, what is to be done about this conflict dilemma? It’s up to the voters to decide if a candidate for election or re-election can be independent. While I say that, I think it would make a difference if the citizens knew how many times a councilmember has had to step down. A couple of times a year would not raise a red flag. A couple of times a month would.

The joke of all times was when Councilman Pogue takes the Mayor Pro-Tem position away from Travis Ussery and then on Mr. Pogue’s first meeting to be the titular head of the Council, he has a conflict. So what does he do? He does an in-your-face to Councilman Ussery and asks him to handle the agenda item while he steps down.  By the way, just how many times has Mr. Pogue had to step down due to a conflict compared to the other council members since Mr. Pogue was elected? It should be an election issue for anyone running for City Council.

Or appointed to any of the boards and commissions.

Of all the Councilmembers who have attended P&Z, MEDC, MCDC and Airport board meetings, how many have sat in a closed session when there was an item discussed that conflicted or was to be a conflict after the meeting? Nobody is dumb enough to pretend people in the room can’t influence others just by being there.

I don’t blame you for wanting to reward a supporter by appointing them to a prominent board. All I ask is that you select the ones with the best judgement, knows how to make a business decision and is the least likely to have a problem with independence from using their influence to help anyone in general but you on the Council in particular.

Everyone on Planet Earth knows that the best way to get your way is to have a board you can influence to do the work for you. That’s not just McKinney, that’s everywhere.

I ask you to raise the bar. Throw out the good ole boys and the McKinney way of peddling influence. You know as well as I do that it has been way more prominent in the past than it should be. Be different. Be independent. Be transparent in every sense of the word, just like you promised when elected and generally use liberally in your daily public statements.

Many thanks! LFM

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