Significant Conflict of Interest in Addison Politics
After being admonished by the then City Attorney in 2014 for violating the Town’s prohibition against political advertising and other ethics violations in campaigns, Addison’s Mayor, Todd Meier, and the Council voted to change the Town’s long standing Code of Ordinances to allow them to do so in the future…and to not violate the law. As a result, Councilmembers and the Mayor can campaign for anyone today, including other members of the Council, using their title, etc. – all without violating any of the former prohibitions against doing so. The Mayor, current councilmembers, and their supporters are quick to point out that this campaign activity is perfectly legal and violates no law…and they are right…as far as it goes.
The change to the Code of Ordinances is obviously “self-serving” and effectively makes it almost impossible for a challenger to win a seat on the council. The mayor and council’s action fits the Law.com definition of a conflict of interest as follows:
|“conflict of interest
n. a situation in which a person has a duty to more than one person or organization, but cannot do justice to the actual or potentially adverse interests of both parties. This includes when an individual’s personal interests or concerns are inconsistent with the best for a customer, or when a public official’s personal interests are contrary to his/her loyalty to public business. An attorney, an accountant, a business adviser or realtor cannot represent two parties in a dispute and must avoid even the appearance of conflict. He/she may not join with a client in business without making full disclosure of his/her potential conflicts, he/she must avoid commingling funds with the client, and never, never take a position adverse to the customer.”
Addison’s current and very heated Council election is a clear example of this conflict. Six candidates are vying for three seats, three incumbents and three challengers. The Mayor, who is not up for reelection, is openly leading the campaign for the three incumbent councilmembers, speaking frequently on their behalf, using Town resources (newsletter, flyers, meetings, etc. to publicize their actions) and creating and funding large glossy campaign flyers in support of their candidacies. We should ask ourselves “why would the mayor do this and at what price?” It’s only a matter of time until another controversial community issue, like the recent Sam’s site decision, causes the mayor to remind those he supported and funded in this election that they are in his debt.
However, an even larger problem looms if one or more challengers is successful this next Saturday. How does the mayor lead a divided council made up of those he financially supported and those he did not? Not easily, since many of the statements he’s made in favor of his “slate” have been called disingenuous, misleading, and simply untruthful by numerous individuals. To quote the good book:
Matthew 6:24 states: “no man can serve two masters.”