Eagle County candidates vow to govern fairly | VailDaily.com

Eagle County candidates vow to govern fairly

Melanie Wong
Eagle County, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Each week, the Vail Daily publishes a Q and A with the four commissioner candidates in Eagle County, Colorado.

Democrat and incumbent Commissioner Peter Runyon is running against Republican and former Commissioner Dick Gustafson for the upvalley seat. Democrat Jon Stavney is running against Republican Debbie Buckley for the midvalley seat that’s being vacated by term-limited Arn Menconi. All Eagle County voters will vote for all the seats, regardless of where they live.

The questions will cover local election issues. This week’s question pertains to potential conflicts of interests that the candidates may have as commissioners.

Under state law, government officials cannot make decisions in matters that involve their personal financial gain or loss, nor can they accept substantial gifts that might influence their decisions.

Beyond that, anyone who comes before the board of commissioners, is entitled to a fair and unbiased board, said County Attorney Bryan Treu.

If a commissioner, because of personal or private interest in the matter at hand, feels that his or her decision would be questioned, it is up to the commissioner to disclose the conflict and decide whether or not they can vote on it, Treu said.

Q. What conflicts of interest (real or perceived) might you have as county commissioner and how would you fairly conduct county business in light of it?

The history of Eagle County has long been checkered with conflicts of interest or the perception of conflicts. This is always a risk in any small community.

As a wholesale manufacturer of souvenir items, my financial self-interests seldom come into conflict with the interests of the county. There have only been two occasions during the past four years where I have had to recuse myself. They both involved airport leases where I had a substantial business history with the applicants for retail space.

Conflicts of interest occur when decisions made by a commissioner, in the course of official duties, result in a financial benefit to that commissioner or an immediate family member.

For example, gifts, grants or contracts made to an organization (private or nonprofit) by the commissioner’s vote that would directly or indirectly compensate that commissioner is a conflict of interest. My rule is: “Even if it’s legal, if it doesn’t pass the ‘smell’ test, don’t do it”.

I am a life-insurance agent, a real-estate broker and a registered representative (securities broker). My insurance license is partially active but not associated with any firm or product. My real-estate license is inactive and has been on the shelf with the Colorado Real Estate Commission for many years.

My securities-broker license is inactive and will soon expire. It would not be relevant in any case. I have no local investments, or business interests, other than my home in Eagle County.

My wife works for Beaver Creek Resort Company, in public relations (separate from Vail Resorts). It is unlikely that any conflict of interest might occur. If one did, however, I would immediately recuse (withdraw) myself from the vote.

State law on conflicts hinges on financial gain from public decisions. As commissioner, I don’t have “built-in” conflicts.

Some ask if I will I keep my job as a project manager for Beck Building Company. I will become a full-time commissioner in 2009, after completing my current commitments.

Some ask if “custom-home builder” also means “land developer.” I am proud of gaining respect from the development community as well as from my neighbors, but my job is unrelated. There’s no link between my decisions and my paycheck.

As a project manager, I “get” what our resort economy is about — Vail, the image, the second-home owners and the unsurpassed resort experience. Quality of life resonates for visitors and working families alike.

Some ask, if am I too “downvalley.” I love my family’s community, which I’ve fought for, and shaped. It remains the place from which I gain strength. That said, I will represent the entire county.

I think it is right for a family to embed in a place. This “rootedness” is not a conflict ” it is precisely what makes this place worth fighting for, and affects how we listen to and understand other citizens, from Red Cliff to Basalt. I am excited to serve this place that so many of us call home.

The people of Eagle County are tired of commissioners who first serve themselves, their friends and special interest groups.

It is critical that we restore trust at the county by avoiding even then appearance of earmarking funds for special-interest groups. The only special-interest group I will be accountable to is you, the citizens of Eagle County.

I will make sure that every contract is bid out in a fair process. I will follow through with my promise to stop no-bid contracts as paybacks to people in the building industry.

I will put the county checkbook online, because true transparency must include ready access to reliable, easily understandable information on spending. Citizens who are too busy to listen to meetings will be able to see how their money is being spent.

It is my firm belief that elected officials should be held accountable. I believe in open and honest government and the people of Eagle County should demand nothing less. I will be an independent voice for working families when I conduct county business.

I will be looking out for the people of our community and their interests ” not for myself, my friends or any special interest group.


Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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