April 19, 2008
As a concerned citizen and past planning commissioner, I am aware that each year county legal staff gives a serious overview in a public meeting of the obligation of planning commissioners to be open about declaring their conflicts of interest, particularly as it involves “a financial interest, direct or indirect” and the importance of recusing themselves where such a conflict may exist. Jamie Lythgoe, real estate broker, is perceived by many to have a serious conflict of interest. She is one of the signers of the petition to incorporate Powder Mountain. By signing the incorporation petition, she effectively takes the following positions:
1. She has shown that despite her claims of no conflict of interest, that she has a clear interest in and association with Powder Mountain.
2. She supports the move to bypass the zoning regulations of Weber County, regulations which as a commissioner she should be upholding.
3. She has shown loyalty to the family business at Powder Mountain over loyalty to the common good. The incorporation petition deprives citizens of their constitutional rights to vote on their own jurisdiction. It deprives them of the right to vote on the people who will supposedly “represent” them and who will have the power to tax them. The petitioners have taken advantage of an unconstitutional loophole created by the state legislature.
4. She has refused to recuse herself when there was an obvious family involvement in the Powder Mountain issue. Though legal counsel may not have been aware at the time, the community was very aware of this involvement. At the last minute she abstained from the vote when she should have recused herself from the issue entirely, from the beginning.
While planning commission procedures suggest not excluding whole categories of business or professional people, it is clear that when the county does appoint a realtor/real estate developer/broker to the planning commission it naturally sets up conflicts of interest, both real and perceived. If this appointee denies, approves, or places certain conditions on a project, it ultimately affects whether their brokerage firm may get the listings on those projects. It puts that commissioner in a potential position of handing out favors to others or helping to create zoning laws which are favorable to themselves and their colleagues. In addition, allowing such a commissioner to vote on projects that are in direct competition with their own developments, is in my mind, an even more flagrant conflict of interest. At the moment, we have only one such realtor/broker/real estate developer on the commission but it would be wise to consider that these same conflicting conditions will apply not only to present commissioners but to future appointees.
It is unconscionable for Mrs. Lythgoe, or any other commissioner, to vote on issues that directly affect their own family’s business or real estate interests, including any future proposed developments by other signers of the incorporation petition. But even more importantly, Mrs. Lythgoe should not vote on issues that affect Powder Mountain’s direct competitors i.e. Wolf Mountain, Wolf Creek, Snow Basin or any new resorts which could come before the commission.
I am aware of one county board whose members are required to sign a statement disclosing their affiliations, both in business and in the community, as well as an ethics agreement. These signed statements are notarized and on file. I would ask the you to institute such a policy with planning commissioners and that it be updated yearly, including any ownership in holding companies and LLCs.
A wise legal counsel once said, “The integrity of the process is as important as the decision that is rendered.”
3128 North River Drive, Eden, Utah 84310