Monday, May 17, 2010

MCDP Issues Release Questioning Vaughn's Conflict of Interest on Water Deal

From the Marion County Democratic Party...I will just report, you can take it for what you will.

INDIANAPOLIS – Today, Democratic Party Chairman Ed Treacy outlined what he called a “clear conflict” of interest for Councillor Ryan Vaughn on the transfer of the water and sewer utilities.

“Councillor Vaughn has a readily apparent conflict and, for the good of Indianapolis’ residents’ trust in government, he must recuse himself for any and all votes on the transfer of the water utility,” Treacy said.

Vaughn works as an attorney and lobbyist at a law firm that counts among their clients Veolia Water. The firm does litigation work for the French company currently operating the water utility. And, Treacy has learned, the firm is doing public affairs work related to the water and sewer transfer deal. Councillor Vaughn works in the public affairs division.

The Revised Code of the Consolidated City and County of Indianapolis-Marion County outlines an “actual conflict of interest:”

Sec. 151-1122. Conflicts of interest, voting.
(a) Voting. This section establishes standards for determining when a councillor is disqualified from acting or may be permitted to abstain from acting in conflict of interest situations.
(b) Actual conflicts of interest.
(1) Defined. A councillor has an actual conflict of interest whenever the outcome of a vote on a matter before the council would either:
a. Confer a direct material pecuniary benefit with a value in excess of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) which would be received (i) by the councillor, the councillor's spouse or councillor's dependent children or (ii) by any business in which the councillor, the councillor's spouse or councillor's dependent children have an interest that is required to be disclosed under section 151-1123, which benefit would be materially different from the benefits conferred generally on the public or the councillor's constituents, or
b. Affect a private personal interest by either conferring any preference or causing any detriment to the councillor, the councillor's business, or councillor's family which would be different from that which would apply to the public or the councillor's constituents generally.
A councillor, who is also an employee of the city or county or other agency whose budget is subject to approval by the city-county council, shall not be deemed to have an actual conflict of interest either (i) with respect to votes on budgets or revenue proposals, unless the proposal pertains primarily to such employee or the employee's supervisor, or (ii) with respect to votes on proposals setting the compensation of councillors.
(2) Disclosure of actual conflicts. As soon as it becomes apparent that a councillor has an actual conflict of interest with respect to a matter before the council, the councillor shall immediately disclose the conflict and thereafter not participate in the debate.
(3) Disqualification from voting. A councillor with an actual conflict of interest shall be disqualified from voting on the matter.
(c) Appearance of a conflict of interest.
(1) Voluntary abstention. Whenever a personal relationship, business interest, or civic involvement of a councillor (other than those relationships inherent in the political process and in advocating constituent concerns) is such that it might appear to limit the councillor's objectivity on the merits of the councillor's vote, the councillor may request to abstain from voting on such matter. The abstention shall be allowed , unless the abstention prevents the council from deciding the matter, in which circumstances the council by a majority vote of those voting may require the councillor to vote. A vote under such circumstances shall not be grounds for ethical complaints against such councillor.
(2) Debate and disclosure. The appearance of a conflict of interest shall not disqualify a councillor from debate on the matter if the nature of the perceived conflict of interest is disclosed as soon as it becomes apparent to the councillor.
(G.O. 45, 2009, § 1) (Emphasis Added)

Treacy indicated that he wasn’t an attorney, and wasn’t prepared to make an allegation as to a violation of the letter of the law, but alleged a clear violation of the spirit of the law.

“Councillor Vaughn will tell you that he is not a partner or that his client has ‘waived conflict,’ and while that legal mumbo jumbo might let him keep his law license, it would be wholly unethical for him to vote on this matter,” Treacy said.

Treacy mentioned the benefit that a young attorney would see if his vote substantially benefited a client.

“Councillor Vaughn is conflicted on this matter,” Treacy said. “He has a clear conflict of interest and clearly should recuse himself.”

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