No conflicts seen for open space advisers
The Open Space Advisory Committee, the 13 members of which were appointed by the Eagle County commissioners in November, will review preservation projects eligible for funding by the county’s open space tax, which was passed by voters in 2002.”The committee is concerned with potential conflicts of interest and there has been some conversation in the group about the appearance of impropriety – that would be someone who has prior knowledge of a project and votes on it,” said Eagle County planner Cliff Simonton, who has been working with the committee in setting its bylaws and criteria.”If a committee member had significant personal knowledge of a project that other committee members didn’t have, it might lead to an appearance of impropriety when it came time to vote,” Simonton said.One of the committee’s 13 members, Andy Wiessner, appointed by the town of Vail, is also a member of the Eagle Valley Land Trust, a nonprofit group that also works on land preservation. Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone said he saw no conflict of interest in someone volunteering with both groups. Another member of the Eagle Valley Land Trust board resigned after she was appointed to the Open Space Advisory Committee.”I don’t believe, however, that somebody who is a volunteer with the Eagle Valley Land Trust could have a conflict of interest,” Stone said.Stone also said he expects the Board of County Commissioners can deal with any potential conflict of interest. Eagle County attorney Walter Matthews agreed, saying that according to state law, the committee’s members don’t appear to have a conflict of interest.”When it defines conflict of interest, the statute deals with personal or financial gain,” he said.County Commissioner Michael Gallagher’s also said he has confidence that the new committee complies with the law. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have appointed it,” he said.Simonton said the committee is trying to set up a system that eliminates any potential appearance of impropriety.”A way to do that would be by discussing the potential conflicts among the committee members,” Simonton said.Susan Albertson, a member of the committee nominated by Stone, said she believed the committee is already working together pretty well.”It’s a wonderful group,” said Sandy Donnelly, another committee member. “I see them in action and I see everybody is extremely earnest. The county is lucky to this group.”Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at email@example.com.
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