Did Chairwoman Goodwin Violate Ohio Ethics Law?
Refused to Answer Questions
by David Miller
Loveland, Ohio - At a “Special Meeting” of the Loveland Planing and Zoning Commission (P&Z) on October 13, two “Special Public Hearings” were set to be held on Monday, October 31st at 7:30 PM at City Hall.
One is for the public to comment on Case No. 11-21, a newly, proposed Special Planning District 15 in the Downtown Historic District. This is the Griewe Development Group’s second attempt to change the zoning of Historic Downtown to allow him to build “high end, boutique” apartments and commercial space. His first attempt was turned down by City Council on September 11.
You can review the new proposal by downloading this .pdf file: Download Downtown_SPD_Revised_10-11-2011-1
You can also watch the discussion at the Commission’s meeting on October 13, including developer Rick Griewe’s presentation in the LOVELAND MAGAZINE HD VIDEO below.
The other public hearing is for residents to comment on Case No. 11-22 Zoning Text Amendment, Regulation of Internet Cafés. No information is readily available on the City Web Site about this hearing or zoning change.
Loveland Magazine was at the P&Z Special Meeting on October 13. This is the meeting where City officials refused for 4 days to release the agenda or reveal the purpose of that meeting until only 28 hours before it convened even though the meeting was already on the City Calendar. Loveland Magazine was told on October 12 by the City Building and Zoning Coordinator, Eva Parker that she was not going to release the information. She said, “I did not feel it was appropriate to share information before it was presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the public.” Parker is the City's highest level administrator for planning and zoning matters.
Read previous story: City Hall Reveals Purpose of "Special" Zoning Meeting Set for Tomorrow.
After the meeting last week, Chairwoman Peggy Goodwin was asked if she would answer questions on camera. She declined. After the camera was removed she appeared to be ready to take questions. However, after hearing the first question, she said, “I am not going to respond to your questions.”
Previously, on September August 1 when Griewe made his first attempt to re-zone Historic Loveland, Goodwin turned the meeting over to Vice-Chair, Al Kressler, citing a potential conflict of interest because she is on the Advisory Council to the Loveland Stage Company. She then took a seat in the audience. Assistant City Manager Gary Vidmar at the same meeting further clarified that Goodwin would not be able to chair the meeting nor take part in discussing the rezoning because of the potential conflict of interest. Again, on August 9, Goodwin recused herself from discussions and voting on the rezoning. The Stage Company Theater is directly adjacent to the acreage Griewe wants to re-zone. Councilman, David Bednar and Goodwin have both cited the same Stage Company positions as a potential conflict of interest. Bednar continues to leave the council table when Historic Downtown is being discussed at council meetings, including the council meeting just the night before. Both he and Goodwin are currently listed on the Stage Company Web Site as members of their Advisory Council.
Stage Company officials have expressed concerns for years about how the development of this area of Historic Downtown might negatively effect parking for their patrons.
After the meeting had adjourned, Goodwin was asked whether anything had changed since the last meetings that would now allow her to preside over the discussions - and cast a vote on the matter. She was also asked, “Did you just forget that you weren't supposed to be doing this?” She refused to answer. She was also asked if she had received a new legal opinion that would now allow her to be involved with voting on the re-zoning. She refused to answer, saying, “My discussion with you is closed.”
Goodwin was also asked when she first knew about the Special Meeting, and when she first knew the subject of the meeting. Loveland code would presumably require that Goodwin be involved in calling and setting the agenda for a “Special” P&Z meeting, however Parker told Loveland Magazine that she did not share the agenda with the Commission until the day before the meeting was held. Goodwin again refused to answer any questions.
After Griewe made his presentation last week, he told Loveland Magazine that he knew about the meeting date and subject, “About two weeks ago.”
During the meeting, Goodwin described the plan to her fellow commissioners and Griewe as having a great deal of flexibility, “Which is good.” She also said that where Griewe wants to built the commercial space “makes sense.” She chaired the meeting, led the discussions, and also asked the Commission to convene the “Special Public Hearing” on Griewe’s rezoning proposal scheduled for October 31 - and cast a “Yes” vote.
Excerpts from: ETHICS IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS
The Ohio Ethics Commission
The Ohio Ethics Law was originally enacted in 1973 to promote confidence in government. The law: establishes a code of conduct making it illegal for state and local public officials and employees to take official action if they have certain conflicts of interest...
Misuse of Official Position
A public official or employee may not use, or authorize the use of, his public position to benefit himself or others in circumstances that create a conflict of interest where his objectivity could be impaired. This is a general restatement of one of the most important prohibitions in the Ethics Law.
Public officials and employees must avoid situations in which they might gain personally as a result of the decisions they make or influence as public servants. For example, a public official who owns property and profits by influencing his public agency to buy that property would likely be in violation of this prohibition. A public official or employee is also prohibited from using his position to benefit others, such as business associates and family members, because his relationship with those individuals could impair his objectivity in his public duties.
All of the provisions of the Ethics Law are criminal prohibitions. Most of the provisions, including the conflict of interest prohibitions, are first degree misdemeanors, punishable by a maximum fine of $1000, a maximum prison term of six months, or both. However, certain provisions of the public contract prohibitions are fourth degree felonies, punishable by a maximum fine of $2500, a maximum prison term of eighteen months, or both.
This LOVELAND MAGAZINE VIDEO is from the October 13 Meeting that Goodwin chaired - and the new proposal for Historic Downtown.