Basalt officials need to avoid project review
October 12, 2012
Two members of the Basalt Town Council inched closer to reversing themselves on a conflict-of-interest issue Tuesday night and, we feel, also inched closer to setting a poor precedent for town government.Council members Glenn Rappaport and Karin Teague participated in a review of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park redevelopment. The council didn’t take any action, but it heard a presentation by the managing partner of a development firm that hopes to purchase the majority of the Pan and Fork site. Both council members offered opinions, suggesting that they plan to play a role in the review.That will be a change of position for both. They have recused themselves from a handful of discussions about the redevelopment of the private-property portion of the Pan and Fork since April 24. Rappaport, an architect, worked as a land-use consultant for Roaring Fork Community Development Corp., the nonprofit organization that currently owns the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. Harry Teague, Karin’s husband, also worked as a consultant for the nonprofit. Neither Rappaport nor Harry Teague is working for it any longer.We don’t see any gray area on this issue. Rappaport and Karin Teague have conflicts of interest on the Pan and Fork review and, therefore, should recuse themselves and leave the room during any discussions about the redevelopment of the private property. (The town purchased a portion of the Pan and Fork and intends to develop a park beside the Roaring Fork River. Rappaport and Karin Teague should be able to participate in discussions on development of the park on public property.)Rappaport and Harry Teague responded to a request for proposals from Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. in late 2011. They were interviewed and selected as consultants. The nonprofit’s president, Michael McVoy, previously said his team weighed the “benefits and consequences” of hiring them.”We went into it fully aware it puts Glenn in conflict and potentially puts Karin Teague in conflict,” McVoy said in February.In addition, Town Attorney Tom Smith responded to an inquiry from The Aspen Times on Rappaport’s eligibility to vote on the Pan and Fork by writing on Feb. 29, “Please note that it has been common knowledge since November, 2011, that Glenn Rappaport and Harry Teague had been retained by Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation to assist it in connection with the redevelopment of the Pan & Fork property, and that such employment would in the future require the recusal of Mr. Rappaport and Ms. Teague.” He said the council members were honoring the town’s code of ethics.Rappaport declared during his unsuccessful campaign for Basalt mayor in April that he would not vote on the project. He said in February that it is “standard procedure” for elected officials to recuse themselves when their private-sector work is up for review. Yet on Tuesday night, Rappaport sat in on a discussion and commented on the plan. After that meeting, he said he didn’t know yet if he will participate in the review.Karin Teague said after the meeting that she was leaning toward participating and would a make public statement if she decided to take that direction.For them to change course, after earlier recusing themselves, would be detrimental to the town. We urge them to place the interests of the community first and foremost. The Pan and Fork redevelopment proposal is one of the biggest issues to come before the council in years. As with any major land-use plan, there are bound to be differing opinions among residents. Constituents need to know that all council members will approach the issue with an open mind. Since Rappaport was paid to work on an early master plan for the Pan and Fork and Karin Teague’s household benefited from the same work, there is the potential for conflicts of interest.If Rappaport and Karin Teague choose to participate, they run the risk of disgruntled residents challenging the council’s decision, whatever it might be. The focus of the review needs to consider Basalt’s best long-term interests, not whether Rappaport and Karin Teague should be able to vote on the plan.