In response to pressure from Mayor Lionel Rivera and councilmember Darryl Glenn, real estate broker/announced mayoral candidate Tim Leigh resigned from the Memorial Hospital Commission last Friday.
Here’s the text of Leigh’s resignation letter to Council.
“Dear Mr. Mayor and council members,
I took 2 phone calls on Friday; one from Mayor Rivera and one from Councilman Glenn. Both men suggested I consider resigning from the Memorial Hospital Commission.
We discussed the important work that the commission is tasked with; and that there can be “no hint” of a conflict of interest.
While it’s true that my wife works as a part-time employee at the hospital (she’s an RN in the NICU who has held that position for nearly 30 years), her employment would have no bearing on my ability actively participate without any bias on the commission. Frankly, I have more integrity than the inference.
Nonetheless, I respectfully withdraw from membership on the commission so the commission may proceed without any appearance of taint.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, Leigh got rolled. This is the kind of political cut and thrust that’s a routine part of the game.
Here’s how it works: you invent an imagined “conflict of interest,” demand that the person with the conflict resign immediately from whatever position he occupies, sit back and enjoy the fuss. You can’t lose – the poor sap that you’ve accused can either resign, thereby acknowledging either his guilt or his cloddish ignorance of the conflict, or he can soldier on, and watch the media blow it up. And we’re glad to do the dirty work, because nothing pleases our readers more than politicians in trouble.
So let’s look at the alleged conflict.
It’s hard to imagine that the Memorial Commission would recommend any steps that would result in the wholesale dismissal of RNs in the ICU. There’s an acute national shortage of folks with the qualifications to hold such positions, and I’d bet that Leigh’s spouse is routinely recruited by other employers.
I agree that disclosure is appropriate, and I also agree that Leigh may have pre-existing opinions about Memorial that are influenced by his spouse’s employment – but so what? The commission is merely advisory – Council, Memorial’s board and city voters are the decision makers.
In fact, conflicts are frequent and unremarkable among councilmembers and members of council-appointed advisory boards. Darryl Glenn and Randy Purvis are lawyers, Scott Hente is a developer, Jan Martin has a consulting business, and so on. They deal with conflicts by disclosing them and, if the conflict is sufficiently acute, recusing themselves from considering particular issues.
Years ago, then-councilmember Bill Guman was the target of a politically motivated complaint alleging that it was a conflict of interest for his commercial landscaping firm to bid on city projects. The complaint was without merit – individual councilmembers then served without compensation, and had no power to influence the award of city contracts. Nevertheless, Guman was tainted.
In the 30 years that I’ve been following, and participating in, local government, I can only recall one instance of blatant, undisclosed conflict of interest. That was Rivera’s undisclosed financial relationship with developer Ray Marshall, who was chosen to partner with the city in the ill-fated original USOC deal. Marshall has since been indicted by the district attorney on counts unrelated to his involvement with the USOC, and Rivera, although cleared of wrongdoing by the city’s ethics commission, is probably finished with electoral politics.
Rivera, caught between the demands of his job as a financial consultant at UBS and his position as the city’s mayor, managed to get himself in an impossible position. Leigh gracefully withdrew, and suffered little harm.
Tim, just consider this a warning shot across the bow. You’re playing in the big leagues now, and it looks like you just got brushed back with a high, inside fast ball. Dust yourself off, step back up to the plate, and now we’ll see if you can hit a spitter. …