Applying Scottsdale’s ethics policy to nonvoting members of city subcommittees could create a brain drain of experts with vital experience, said a volunteer who wants to continue serving on two of the panels.
The catalyst for the ethics discussion, which took place at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, was the continued interest of Carla (her legal name) in serving on the subcommittees of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission, a board she helped found. On Thursday, she said conflict-ofinterest rules should not be applied to nonvoting volunteers.
“To say that they’re not going to allow people with expertise in the area, talent and passion to serve on the committees is ridiculous,” she said. “If they’re going to apply this to every committee, that people involved in the field can’t participate, then who are you going to have doing the work?”
Carla resigned from the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission in September because she also serves as the executive director of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the area near the McDowell Mountains.
Afterward, she sought to retain her positions on the commission’s planning and promotions subcommittees. Members of the subcommittees do not have voting power, but merely conduct research and make recommendations to the preserve commission. Subcommittee members do not have voting authority.
On Tuesday, the City Council voted to defer confirming nominees to the preserve commission’s subcommittees upon realizing that Carla was on the list. At the prompting of Vice Mayor Jim Lane, the council agreed to postpone making the confirmations until the city attorney’s office renders a legal opinion on whether the city’s conflict-ofinterest code applies to subcommittee members.
City Attorney Deborah Robberson said Thursday that city lawyers are researching the issue.
Lane said he asked for the opinion because the application of the ethics policy to subcommittees remains a gray area.
“Nobody had addressed the issue of whether there were any problems with conflicts of interest in these standing committees,” he said. “With even a perception of a conflict, we have to be careful.”
Carla said that if experts are not allowed to serve on city subcommittees in their fields because of the ethics policy, the city’s decisionmaking process will suffer.
Lane acknowledged that it’s probably not a problem for Carla to serve on the subcommittees because she would not have voting power.
“I think it’s a step removed and it’s probably not an issue,” he said.