ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Our View: Avoid conflict of interest

Many years ago, a weekly newspaper editor was anguishing over whether he should serve on the town council. He also covered the council's activities for his newspaper. A conflict of interest? Without a doubt. And yet, in smaller communities -- and...

Many years ago, a weekly newspaper editor was anguishing over whether he should serve on the town council.

He also covered the council's activities for his newspaper.

A conflict of interest?

Without a doubt.

And yet, in smaller communities -- and the one in question was about 1,300 -- the number of people available for leadership positions is limited, so much so that conflicts of interest are inevitable.

ADVERTISEMENT

The newspaper editor served on the town council in spite of his conflict, and was meticulous in his coverage of the board's activities.

He apparently was able to serve two masters -- his readers and the town's taxpayers -- without harming either. In his case the conflict was journalistic rather than "pecuniary."

Nevertheless, obvious conflicts of interest should be avoided whenever possible, including the three cases cited on Mitchell's City Council.

First, it's not a wise practice because it is against the law. State statute says a council member should not participate in a discussion or a vote on an issue in which he has a "direct pecuniary interest," that is, an interest relating to money. To us, employment is as direct of a "pecuniary interest" as can be imagined, right next to investment income or company ownership.

Second, it's rare that anyone who has such a conflict doesn't think he is immune to it. He invariably believes he is able to set such influences aside when going about official business. It may in fact be possible for an elected official to do this. However, the law was passed so that he wouldn't have to worry about it -- and to protect taxpayers from those who were less concerned about propriety.

Third, in communities of Mitchell's size, there are plenty of talented people available to step up and take over when a conflict of interest presents itself.

It is in the interests of good government and the protection of the public that the conflict of interest law was passed. It only makes sense that it be followed.

What To Read Next
Members Only
After the departure of longtime superintendent Marje Kaiser and the hiring of Dan Trefz, who recently resigned, advocates say the specialty school needs help from lawmakers to reach its past heights.
Over the past year, the city has been mulling over bringing a secondary water source to Mitchell – a move Mayor Bob Everson said is aimed at positioning the city to grow.
At issue was the attendance at a legislative conference in Hawaii last December by Spencer Gosch and Jamie Smith.
Snow removal began Thursday and will continue into the upcoming week, city officials say.