Mayor's vote seen as conflict of interest
The Yuma City Council's vote Wednesday to not conduct an investigation into alleged misconduct by Mayor Al Krieger, including possible conflict of interest, was itself a conflict of interest, some have suggested.
Krieger conducted the meeting during the discussion on a motion made by Councilman Jerry Stuart for the council to investigate the mayor's conduct and to seek outside counsel to advise it. Stuart based his motion on a provision in the city charter that gives the council the power to “make investigations into the affairs of the city and the conduct of any city department, office or agency.”
As the last to vote on the measure, the mayor also cast the deciding vote that defeated Stuart's motion. Until Krieger voted, the vote was tied, which would have defeated it anyway.
Stuart brought his motion to the council following allegations made by Marilyn Young during the call to the public at the council's Jan. 4 meeting. Young, a former mayor, accused Krieger of conflict of interest, violations of the city charter and abuse of his position.
“I don't see it as a conflict of interest,” Krieger said Friday of his participation in the discussion and voting. “I chaired the meeting. If there was a problem, the city attorney didn't say anything. He's there to advise the council on legal matters.”
Others, however, do see a problem.
Attorney Thomas Kelly said that the mayor's casting the deciding vote to “quash the investigation against him is the definition of conflict of interest.”
“This indicates to me his total lack of understanding what comprises conflict of interest,” Kelly said. “He jumped right in with a ‘no' vote, oblivious that he shouldn't have voted.”
Kelly noted that on any number of boards when someone has a personal interest in a matter, they excuse themselves.
Councilman Paul Johnson said that Krieger's not excusing himself “astounded me. His running the meeting and casting the deciding vote on a motion on whether to conduct an investigation of his alleged misconduct, is like a criminal casting the deciding vote on a grand jury that is indicting him for his crime.”
The city charter, Article VII, Section 6, reads: “No member shall be excused from voting except:
• Upon matters involving the consideration of his own official conduct.
• Matters in which he declares a conflict of interest.
• He is absent during the vote.”
State statute also addresses conflict of interest in Title 38-503, but the statute mostly refers to situations where the official or a relative has a financial stake in an action.
One possible exception is Section B, which reads: “Any public officer or employee who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any decision of a public agency shall make known such interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from participating in any manner as an officer or employee in such decision.”
Violation of conflict of interest is a Class 6 felony.
Asked for some clarification about the provisions in the state statute, Matthew Roberts, director of communications for the Secretary of State's Office, responded that without all the facts in a case, the office couldn't comment.
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6853. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/jlobeck or on Twitter at @YSJoyceLobeck.