Monday, April 7, 2014

Having Your CA and Council Too

The recent kerfuffle regarding Reg Avery and his attempt to sit on the Columbia Council while running for the County Council has prompted me to review my reasons for resigning from the Board last July.  This is particularly important in light of some suggestions that the conflict of interest policy is "not binding" or can otherwise be waived.

First, the "Code of Ethics and Conflicts of Interest Policy for directors, officers and senior team leaders":

A member of the Board upon declaring a candidacy for election to public office shall resign from the Board.

Second, the provision on waivers:

CA may waive application of the policies set forth in this Code only when special circumstances warrant granting a waiver, and then only in conjunction with any appropriate monitoring of the particular situation. 

Quite straight-forward, particularly in relation to most other policy documents put forth by the Columbia Association.  Board members may not simultaneously run for election to public office and serve on the Board unless special circumstances merit waiver of the conflict.  Even then, CA bears the additional burden of monitoring that Board member's activities to ensure the conflict does not impose itself on the business of the organization.

After deciding that I would be running for the House of Delegates in early May of last year, I reviewed these policies in great depth.  I didn't want to resign.  I loved my work on the CA Board and still felt there were very sensitive matters at risk if I gave up my spot.  But after a thorough review, I came to two conclusions: 1) resignation was required by the Conflict of Interest policy; and 2) continued service on the Board would bring with it the specter of impropriety.

The latter point is particularly important.  The votes may have been there for a waiver.  In my head, I counted a delicate 5-4.  But then I projected out past that vote.  I thought of trying to raise money for my campaign while evaluating all of the potential conflicts.

This person is on a Citizen Advisory Panel.
This person owns a contracting or subcontracting business.
This person is a commercial real estate broker.
This person works for CA.
This person wishes to see CA take a position on a matter of public dispute.

And for me, the appearance of impropriety is enough.  It doesn't matter if all the votes had been tallied and the outcome set, the continued presence of a Board member who may have a vested interest in the outcome of a vote for political reasons was too much for me to expect the rest of the Board to bear.

And I have yet to mention the most facile, but serious, imposition of a candidate on the CA Board: grandstanding.  What candidate wouldn't go out of their way to ensure they had a quote planted with every issue of the Columbia Flier?  Heck, the non-candidate members play this game themselves (I see you taking time out to chat with Luke in the back of the room!).  Why make CA your personal PR vehicle?  That's not what it's there for and the residents of Columbia deserve more than that.

And create all that havoc for what?  If the candidate is successful, resignation is mandatory.  Not by a policy that may be waived, but by very serious legal consequences of being on both sides of a contract or other legal relationship that crosses all matters of CA business.

I do not care what Reg Avery decides to do, but he needs to make the choice.  I think he would be a perfectly fine member of the CA Board and recommend this service as a fulfilling opportunity to make a difference in one's community.  I think he may also enjoy campaigning for office, but would predict a similar outcome to 2010 when running against one of the most popular public officials in the County. 

If Mr. Avery doesn't pick his race, I think Oakland Mills should declare him ineligible and reopen nominations.  I know the By-Laws for Dorsey provide that if one's deck is not in accordance with CA covenants, you may not serve, so I presume the Village has a similar ability to preclude candidates from positions they are not eligible to fill.  It would be embarrassing to Reg Avery and his Village, but that's why these institutions exist - to apply order.  This is not a game and it should not be up to the personal decisions of a candidate.

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love!