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Leigh gets rolled

Mon, Feb 15, 2010

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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. …

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17 Comments For This Post

  1. Brad Foster Says:

    John, hopefully Tim will hit one out of the ballpark. Worst case, he might get walked to first base?

  2. Rick Wehner Says:

    While there have been no formal conflict of interest charges laid on Mr. Rivera, the degree of distrust generated during his tenure makes me wonder if this is not going to deter competent individuals from even considering public office?

  3. Dave Gardner Says:

    Rivera and Hente have repeatedly failed to recuse themselves on votes that impact the real estate development industry – setting of utility connection fees, park fees, and many other general land use fees and policies. These are much more substantive conflicts of interest than this Leigh/Memorial business. And yet Rivera has asked Leight to step down? Just one more in a long list of reasons to be unimpressed. We are getting our money’s worth from these elected officials, and not a penny more.

  4. Steve Nolte Says:

    Boy! if that isn’t “The Pot calling the Kettle Black!!”
    If anyone should have withdrawn from anything, it should have been the Mayor during the USOC discussions; and while we’re at it, since Scott Hente is a developer he shouldn’t be involved in the Copper Ridge decision.

    Having said that, I think Mr Leigh did the right thing so as to not demonstrate any impropriorty on his part. Before anyone can get this city moving in the right direction again and restoring quality of life, and consider asking for any tax increases or possible Tabor “time-outs” to accomplish this, they will have to earn the trust of the taxpayers.

  5. Ken G Says:

    Steve –
    I was going to say the EXACT same thing when I read this article.
    Why is the almighty Mayor even contacting Tim? How does Mr. Rivera get up in the morning, look in the mirror know the millions he’s taxed the city constituents with for years to come and then has the audacity to call Mr. Leigh out?????

    Trust of the taxpayers – like trying to whittle a 100 year old oak with a fingernail clipper – takes time….

    I think Mr. Leigh stepping down to avoid any position of impropriety is the right thing, as any honest person would. Unfortunately, his honesty will allow other candidates to enter this important restoration project with only but their personal agendas to set. We’ll most likely have candidates with honesty, but in the end unless the voters show up, we’ll be near where we are today – fox guarding the hen house.

  6. Scott Hente Says:

    Okay, I had to laugh at this one: I shouldn’t be involved in the Copper Ridge decision because of my occupation. That’s like saying Darryl Glenn and Randy Purvis shouldn’t be involved in making laws because they are attorneys.

    If I owned any of the land involved in the Copper Ridge project or in any way profited from it’s development, then yes, I should recuse myself. But that’s not the case.

    And by the way, I never liked that “developer” title that has been bestowed on me. My partner and I are single and multi-family home builders.

  7. Like it'll matter ..... Says:

    …….. who’s Tim Leigh ?
    … where’s this ‘memorial’ Hospital ?
    …… what’s a You-Sock ?
    …. can i vote fer Mayor Bob again ?

  8. FactFinder Says:

    Lionel has been very careful to conceal his client list from scrutiny by the city “ethics” commission. There are twenty people at CS Utilities who have 200 thousand reasons each to be doing business with Lionel. Does Lionel recuse himself from salary discussions at CS Utilities?

    Then there’s the mysterious phone call a few years ago, that went from CS Utilities to the Pikes Peak Range Riders to remind them to apply for a pass from the CS Utilities to “allow city citizens (PPRR) to ride around on city property.” But did any other citizens get such a phone call?

    Or the presence of Vice Mayor Small as Commissioner (or czar if you prefer) of the 350 or so city housing properties. There are persistent rumors that some CS Utilities employees are actually living in said housing. True? I don’t know, but I sure would like to know. And on the issue of nepotism, is Lionel serious?

  9. M C Pennica Says:

    Well, the nonsense has just started! This is the exact reason why good people refuse to run for office–even though our city needs these people (and now more than ever!). Tim can take the punch. It would be nice to know who is throwing it! Most don’t have the backbone to show their face. Next?

  10. Rick Wehner Says:

    Rivera and Glenn both gunning for a seat on BoCC.
    Coincidence? or — Politics?

  11. Brad Foster Says:

    M C, you’re absolutely correct. And “The beatings will continue until moral picks up”

  12. Bill Guman Says:

    Yes, I argued with my council colleagues back in ‘93 that no written policies existed which prevented me from competitively bidding on city contracts. It wasn’t that my landscape architectural firm stood to lose a lot of income by being banned from bidding on city work (the city was never a major client of ours), but it was the principal; there were no clearly defined rules in place at the time, other than I should disclose my financial interests, recuse myself from voting on issues in which I had an interest, and refrain from trying to influence my colleagues when they voted on matters in which I had an interest.

    The gray area was the issue of “perceived conflict,” or what did my constituency “think” about me competing for city work, when – as a council member – I would also have oversight of the budgets and the same staff who I would essentially also be working for as a contractor to the city.

    As a somewhat naïve (and definitely rebellious) rookie council member it took me awhile to comprehend what was at stake. But I came to understand exactly what a “perceived conflict” meant [especially in politics], and the compromising position in which I risked placing my business and me, and more importantly the city staff who would be responsible for overseeing my work as a contractor. Hence, the “Guman Rule” was adopted (thanks to Rich Laden for coining the name).

    Language like “…shall have no remote or indirect interest” and “…including family members and relatives,” and “…extends to boards and commissions” were included in the Guman Rule, which I gladly helped draft and fully supported. Oddly, some members of council (including those who initially raised my alleged conflict of interest matter in the first place) thought the Rule went too far and voted against it. But nonetheless, it was adopted. I think it’s a good rule.

    Council (and mayoral) candidates or those seeking appointment to a city board or commission would be wise to review the Guman Rule beforehand. It would help to educate them about their fiduciary duty to avoid even a perceived conflict when they have jurisdiction over any city-owned entity, particularly one that that employs a spouse.

  13. Ken G Says:

    Bill –

    Since this Guman Rule exists, why are a majority of our elected officials in a ‘perceived conflict’ position not stepping down in our county?

    I can only think it is becuase the rules do not apply to these people pre and certainly post election.

    That pile of dirt that is under the carpet better represents a road hump of lies and deceit than a couple of specs of dust……

  14. Tim O Says:

    John, I rest my case about city leadership. You might also want to read the Gazette editorial for Wed. Feb 17

  15. John Hazlehurst Says:

    As y’all know, the circus continues with the resignation of B.J. Scott from the Memorial Commission. I would’ve applied, but having been treated in the Memorial E.R. last summer after a bike crash, I’d have to disqualify myself. My guess is that the commission, after such a rocky start, has already lost credibility.

    Our poor city council! As the saying goes, they couldn’t organize a one-car funeral.

  16. Bill Guman Says:

    “Ken G
    February 16th, 2010
    Bill –

    Since this Guman Rule exists, why are a majority of our elected officials in a ‘perceived conflict’ position not stepping down in our county?”

    The “Rule” has no jurisdiction outside city government, so it would not apply to elected officials in the county. As far as enforcement (or lack of it), that’s a very good question… one that should be asked of the city’s Ethics Committee and individual council members. As with any ordinance or law, if it has no teeth it’s basically worthless.

  17. John Hazlehurst Says:

    And Bill, as you may know, the city ethics commission is adbsolutely toothless. It has the power of subpoena, but as we pointed out months ago, there’s no poena in the subpoena. They can require you to appear, but there’s no statutory penalty for failure to do so.