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Without a quorum, conflict of interest concerns plague council

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 11:25 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 11:40 a.m. CDT

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With two councilmen absent and another having to abstain on voting, an agenda item became a conflict of interest during a Jan. 22 Osceola City Council meeting.

The agenda item concerned approving the city council’s $3,000 contribution to Osceola Senior Center.

Since Councilmen Chris Dorsey and Dan Hooper were absent and Councilman Glenn Schaff is on the senior center board, there weren’t enough councilmen who would be allowed to vote on the issue. The council didn’t have a quorum.

Mayor Fred Diehl said the issue wasn’t about attempting to withhold funding, but rather not having enough councilmen present to have a quorum and vote on the issue.

Additional funding

The city budgets $3,000 annually toward the senior center, which has been struggling with financial issues. In March, the council increased that budget to $6,000 per fiscal year and issue two separate payments. That payment system would allow the council the chance to review the senior center’s financial situation every six months.

Ty Wheeler, Osceola city administrator/clerk, said the council didn’t have an update on financial reports from the senior center, which would be helpful when approving the next contribution to the senior center. Payments are issued twice a year.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to change the terms of the $3,000 that we usually give, but to require additional documentation that we need,” Wheeler said.

Schaff said he didn’t see how him sitting on the senior-center board could be a conflict of interest since he doesn’t get paid to sit on the board.

“I was always under the impression if you sat on a board, and you get paid, then it would be a conflict of interest,” Schaff said.

Diehl said since Schaff was on the board, it would be a conflict of interest.

“You are a part of them,” Diehl said. “It’s, I don’t know. That whole thing is a loose cannon because we’ve got some other situations where, I think, there is a conflict of interest.”

Public comment

The conflict of interest issue was also mentioned during the public-comment section of the council meeting.

Sarah Truitt, a member of Osceola Parks and Recreation board and former Osceola city councilwoman, said she approached the council six to eight months ago about possible additional funding to Osceola’s Latino Festival, which she helped organize. The item was never put on the agenda.

“If that had ever come to a vote, I would’ve abstained from voting because of my involvement in the committee,” Truitt said. “I wouldn’t have thought it was fair for me to vote for something that was in my interest.”

Truitt said she was concerned about council members voting on the issue who have a conflict of interest and the problems it could create.

“I think it’s important for us to keep that focus on the entire community and not just certain segments of the community and how it can grow as a whole,” Truitt said.

Announcement

A budget work session for the city council was scheduled 7 p.m. Jan. 29, and the senior center funding will likely be on the work session’s agenda.

During verbal council reports at the end of the meeting, Schaff made an announcement he would step down from the senior center board the next morning.

“You know, you wonder why it’s so hard to get somebody on a board. We’ve just seen a good example of it,” Schaff said. “And, I will step off the board in the morning as soon as it opens. And, also, there’s a certain amount of animosity behind that. I will be off the board in time for the next meeting.”

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