Did Personal Interests Overturn Election Vote?
To the Editor:
CONFLICT OF INTEREST: A conflict of interest is defined as a conflict between a person’s public obligations and private interests. When a conflict of interest arises, the person involved is unable to perform his or her duties in a suitable and proper manner.
During the City Council meeting on Jan. 23, Councilor Wayne Hasek, recused himself from a City Council vote to hire a lobbying firm which employed his daughter. This was an act of integrity and wholly admirable.
In contrast, Mayor Baarts’ action in voting for Randy Lubenow at the March 27 City Council meeting creates concerns. The mayor did not disclose his long personal friendship with members of Randy Lubenow’s family. He should have recused himself and sent the vote to a special election.
The following statement from the Compliance & Ethics Department of the University of Central Florida speaks to this issue.
“When it comes to conflicts of interest, appearance is as important as reality. This is why disclosing conflicts of interest is important. Disclosure is typically a more formal and documented process that most organizations have adopted in policy to address conflicts of interest. The disclosure process is intended to help the work force be transparent and accountable for (explain or justify) their actions and decisions. Disclosure of a potential conflict of interest does not make it an actual conflict, but may help eliminate the perception.”
“On the other hand, disclosure of an actual conflict of interest does not remove the conflict, but helps get it in the open to be properly addressed. It’s important to disclose both potentially perceived and actual conflicts of interest to allow others to evaluate the matter and make the decision, rather than keep it to oneself and then create an ethical or legal situation. The individual cannot make the determination as to whether it is a conflict or not because he or she does not have an independent or objective point of view.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Baarts’ personal friendship with members of the Lubenow family could have been a factor in overturning the vote of Ward 3’s citizens a few months earlier when they chose not to grant Randy Lubenow another term on the City Council. The mayor’s decision, or at the least, presents us with the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Council members Jay Maynard and Britney Kawecki, who voted in favor of Mr. Lubenow, also violated the trust of the citizens of Ward 3 by negating their decision in the voting booth. We call on Mayor Baarts, Mr. Maynard and Ms. Kawecki to pay attention to the voters in the future.
Richard S. Bradley, Jr.