Conflict-of-interest law forces member off Airport Authority
Clark cites risk in unclear law
10:34 PM, Oct. 25, 2011 |
Jerry Clark, architect Written by Luke Thompson The Leaf-Chronicle
A broad and ambiguous conflict-of-interest law forced Jerry Clark to resign from his position as vice chairman of the Clarksville-Montomery County Airport Authority at a special called meeting Tuesday afternoon.
After more than four years of volunteer service, Clark learned that he could be considered a Clarksville or Montgomery County official, which would prohibit his architecture firm, Clark and Associates Architects Inc., from doing business with local governments. Clark said his attorney came to the conclusion that the attorney general would probably rule in his favor, but attorneys from the County Technical Assistance Service thought he wouldn’t be allowed to do business with the county as a member of the Airport Authority.
“Even if I was willing to penalize myself, I can’t do that to my employees,” Clark said.
County Mayor Carolyn Bowers said the matter was brought to the county’s attention by CTAS. Clark said he also met with city Mayor Kim McMillan to discuss the appropriate course of action. Clark said if he had known about the law, he never would have joined the board.
He presented the other Airport Authority members and Bowers several pages of legal research on details of the law.
Clark said the issue stems from the 1957 County Purchasing Act, which prohibits any county official from doing business with the county, as well as an ethics law that notes officials are prohibited only from doing business with the group which they serve. But differing opinions from the state have clouded the issue of who counts as a county employee.
“It is absolutely not a settled issue,” he said. “In some cases, you’re a county official if you walk by the courthouse. In other cases, it delineates exactly who is a county official.”
Clarksville’s city code identifies all employees as officials, which wouldn’t count those on boards and authorities as long as they don’t do business with the entity they serve. The city charter, on the other hand, defines an official as those on boards and commissions, but doesn’t mention anything about members of an authority.
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