Yesterday, I posted a series of general questions about a proposed deal with Green Energy Holdings for a waste digester. See, Preliminary & General Questions about a Proposal with Green Energy Holdings. (For all posts about this deal, I’ve a designated category.)
Today, here are questions specific to the Whitewater Community Development Authority’s role in that proposal. Embedded immediately below is the video recording of the 6.27.12 CDA session during which the CDA considered GEH’s proposal.
These questions appear in no particular order.
1. Don’t both Whitewater and the State of Wisconsin have prohibitions against conflicts of interest among officials?
Whitewater’s Municipal Code, section 7.04.070, entitled ‘Conflict of interest,’ begins with a provision for the protection of all residents that
(a) Financial and Personal Interest Prohibited. No official or employee, whether paid or unpaid, shall engage in any business or transaction or shall act in regard to financial or other personal interest, direct or indirect, which is incompatible with the proper discharge of official duties in the public interest contrary to the provisions of this chapter or which would tend to impair independence of judgment or action in the performance of official duties….
Similarly, Wisconsin Statutes 19.59, “Codes of ethics for local government officials, employees and candidates,” promises all residents that
(1)(a) No local public official may use his or her public position or office to obtain financial gain or anything of substantial value for the private benefit of himself or herself or his or her immediate family, or for an organization with which he or she is associated….
2. Shouldn’t we have a government, including all who serve on boards and commissions, meeting – at a minimum – the standards that our city’s ordinances, and our state’s laws, require?
3. How were these remarks, just less than 12 minutes into the session, from the CDA board chairman Jeff Knight, and a CDA member Jim Allen, consistent with even that minimum standard?
CDA chairman (speaking to CDA member): “Well, they’ve got their eyes on you (CDA member), by the way, being from Chartwells [crosstalk], because one of the things they want to do is take all of your waste…”
CDA member (to whom chairman was speaking): “That’s my question [laughter]. Where do you get all your food waste?”
GEH representative: “Pardon?”
CDA member: “Where do you get all your food waste?”
4. Why does the CDA chairman assume approval of a deal even before going into closed session?
Before going into closed session to discuss GEH’s development agreement, this is what the CDA chairman had to say about an assured outcome:
CDA chairman: “….this [development agreement] has already been approved by the city council, but we’re gonna to talk in closed session about some edits and changes that need to be approved as – when – we come out of closed session. Ok? So, we’ll be approving then a preliminary development agreement, that’ll have to go back to the city council for it to be amended. All right?”
What does this say about being on the CDA?
5. In light even of a potential conflict (and that’s a generous interpretation), why did the CDA member and chair vote on this proposal? Why would the chairman of a committee think his remarks, or the member’s questions, were anything other than wrong, unbecoming, and beneath the standard that an American community should meet?
6. In light of a potential conflict (again, a generous interpretation), why did the CDA member and chair vote on the GEH proposal? Shouldn’t they have abstained?
7. In light of a potential conflict (again, a generous interpretation), why did the CDA member and chair even participate in this part of the CDA discussion? Shouldn’t they have remained silent, or left the room?
8. In light of a potential conflict (again, a generous interpretation), will the CDA member and chair continue to participate in CDA discussions of GEH?
9. What did the CDA know about this project at the time it deliberated preliminary approval? Note that a representative of GEH mentioned during the meeting that he had not brought a photo of an existing plant, but that he could bring one later.
Did the CDA vote without knowing what other GEH locations look like, let alone what the Whitewater plant would look like? Had they not seen plans, schematics, etc.?
10. If GEH is providing private funding, have audited financial statements for the company been provided to the city and CDA for the purposes of ascertaining whether GEH can meet its commitments?
11. Why was there nothing about GEH in the CDA’s online agenda packet? Don’t people who apply for a home loan have to offer more for review than Whitewater’s residents have seen about a deal using city resources?
Why shouldn’t a developer be held to a standard that even ordinary consumers have to meet? Shouldn’t a public deal be a public matter?
Tomorrow: Questions for the Press about a Proposal with Green Energy Holdings.