Former Pitkin County manager won’t be appearing in new role as consultant
October 13, 2010
ASPEN – Former Pitkin County Manager Hilary Fletcher cannot appear before county commissioners in her new role as a private consultant on airport projects for two years, commissioners concurred Tuesday after consulting with County Attorney John Ely.
Fletcher left her county government post last month to work with Jviation Inc., a Denver firm that specializes in planning and engineering airport-construction projects. Jviation is one of the consulting firms working on a master plan for the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, giving rise to questions about whether Fletcher could appear before the elected officials in her new capacity. Fletcher’s new job entails working with communities and governments in planning processes, as well as business recruitment, Jim Trott, a principal at Jviation, said when Fletcher’s resignation was announced.
With Commissioner Patti Kay-Clapper absent, commissioners on Tuesday reviewed the language on conflicts of interest within the county’s Home Rule Charter.
“The reason this has come up at this time, of course, is the resignation of County Manager Fletcher and whether there’s an opportunity for her to work on our behalf,” said Commissioner George Newman.
There has been no specific request for Fletcher to appear before the commissioners, but there was discussion about the possibility before she departed, according to Newman. That prompted the request for a clarification of the rules, he said.
Commissioners appeared split on the issue, and Commissioner Michael Owsley suggested the language of the charter didn’t exactly address the situation, since Fletcher would be working on the county’s behalf.
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“The real problem here, it seems to me, is to avoid conflict of interest,” he said. “Someone point out to me the conflict of interest.”
Commissioners Jack Hatfield and Rachel Richards agreed Fletcher should not appear before them for the two years spelled out in the charter. It’s important to avoid even an appearance of a conflict of interest, they said.
“I’m in a better-safe-than-sorry position,” Richards said, adding that she doesn’t want the airport planning process muddied by an appearance of impropriety.
“The last thing I want is that process result to be shadowed by anything,” she said.
That doesn’t mean, in her work at Jviation, that Fletcher can’t work behind the scenes on the master plan, Richards noted, and Ely agreed.
“We may have the benefit of her work in the background,” Richards said.
The charter language that applies to Fletcher reads: “No current or former county policy maker shall appear in a representative capacity before the Board of County Commissioners, the Board of Equalization or the Planning and Zoning Commission for two years following his/her departure from office or employment concerning any application regarding any specific piece of real property which was also the subject of any application process in which that individual participated in during that individual’s term of office or employment.”
“I think it’s pretty clear,” Hatfield said.
Ely said he was consulted before Fletcher accepted the post with Jviation to make sure taking the job didn’t violate the county’s conflict of interest policy. When she announced her resignation, Fletcher said she was never involved in hiring or retaining Jviation for local projects, including the planning for a runway extension at the airport. Rather, the firm was brought in by another company hired for the work.