Town manager says council members — not staff — initiated talks about a potential on a pending development application for Lowe’s, while a second council member said he was also approached in private about the issue
SUMMIT COUNTY — A discussion about potential conflict of interest issues will precede Wednesday’s vote on a site plan approval for a proposed Lowe’s store in Silverthorne, as elected officials in the town grapple with the contentious issue.
Two council members, Dave Anderson and Dave Preuss, said they were approached by other council members, who raised questions about conflict of interest and suggested that they should recuse themselves from voting on the development application.
Anderson is a part-owner of Neils Lunceford, a landscaping business in town, and Preuss is a cabinet-maker whose business would also face competition from the discount big retailer.
During the weekend, Anderson said he’s willing to give up his vote, but charged that town manager Kevin Batchelder and town attorney Jerry Dahl were involved in starting the discussions about conflict of interest, but Tuesday, Batchelder denied those incendiary claims.
“I’m upset and concerned about those untrue allegations … They’re not true and not consistent with the facts,” Batchelder said, adding that Anderson’s charges could be damaging to his professional reputation.
Batchelder said council members initiated discussions with the town attorney about potential conflict of interest.
“Town staff was not involved in those discussions,” he said.
Batchelder said it’s appropriate for council members to discuss potential conflict of interest issues among themselves, as long as it’s not more than two individuals involved in the talks, and as long as they’re not talking about the process — but not land use decisions.
The distinction is that council members act in a quasi-judicial role when they make land-use decisions, and there are strict state and town codes to ensure a fair hearing for applicants.
“They sit as judges on these land-use cases,” Batchelder said.
According to the town charter, elected officials are not supposed participate in any discussion or deliberation on any question in which they have a “substantial personal or financial interest, direct or indirect, including an interest held through a spouse or family member.”
The charter also requires elected officials to disclose if they have such an interest and directs the remaining members of the council to vote whether it constitutes a conflict.