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Conflict of interest still up for debate

NORTH LIBERTY– How much of an interest constitutes a conflict?
The North Liberty City Council will try to find some consensus on the matter.
Last month, council members learned that one of the project engineers from McClure Engineering– the lead engineering firm in a re-design of Highway 965– is also part owner of property along the highway.
While engineer Adam Bohr disclosed to city officials his minority ownership interest in Golfview Investments, L.L.C. from the time he took interest in the Golfview property, council members were not made aware of that fact until recently, according to discussions at the council meeting of Feb. 10.
“I was disappointed to hear about it second-hand,” remarked council member Gerry Kuhl. Fellow councilor Jim Wozniak agreed the problem was the lack of information provided to the council.
“If it comes out afterward, and the councilors find out (later), we have to deal with the public and the press. The perception is often worse than the reality.”
Both City Administrator Ryan Heiar and Mayor Tom Salm told the council they were comfortable that the situation did not present a conflict of interest.
“At the time, and based on the circumstances, I didn’t think there was an issue,” Salm told the council. “If you want to point blame, point it at me. But I think it’s more of a communication issue.”
Heiar apologized for not communicating the information to the council directly, but said at the time, he also had no concerns about a potential conflict of interest.
Councilor Coleen Chipman stated she felt a conflict of interest might arise if improvements to the roadway improve the value of the property in question.
Council members took no action, though council member Chris Hoffman suggested City Attorney Scott Peterson could draft a written statement clarifying the city’s position.
However, at the council’s meeting of Feb. 24, Peterson said he had spoken with council members individually on the matter and had since drafted a letter requesting specific direction from the group.
“While there is some general consensus about there being a concern, there is some divergence in what your personal opinions are,” Peterson said. “More than one of you asked that there be continued public discussion, and it not be just left as it is.”
Peterson asked whether they would like to add the item to a future council agenda.
“I would like to see it back on the agenda,” said Chipman. Kuhl and Wozniak agreed.
On Friday, Peterson told the Leader he would meanwhile write a formal letter to each of the council members, but was unable to divulge what the purpose or content of the letter would be.