Letter: Conflict at the MCC


By on Fri, January 23, 2009

Neil Merrilees is a member of the Midcoast Community Council

Should a member of a Sewer board be able to serve on the Midcoast council?  That is the issue the Supervisors will be discussing Tuesday. 

Sewer board members can’t also serve on a Fire Board.  They can’t serve on the Board of Supervisors.  They couldn’t serve in the State Assembly, or Senate.  Hillary Clinton can’t be secretary of State, and still be a Senator.  Barak Obama gave up his Senate seat, not because he is too busy (he is) but because he had to.  Our democratic tradition recognizes that serving two "masters" is an inherent conflict of interest, and is not allowed.

The Midcoast Council has an exception from these rules.  Members don’t have to follow the rules of every other elected official because the Board of Supervisors can completely disregard their advice.  I call it the "because we don’t have to listen" exception.  MCC members often state that they don’t have to worry about conflict of interest, and then complain that the Supervisors don’t take them seriously.  The two issues are directly related.

It isn’t about "pro-maximum development".  This issue isn’t about limiting choice.  Anyone will be able to run for the MCC.  Its about holding the MCC to the same conflict of interest standard as the Fire board, School Board, City Council, Assembly, right up to the office of the President.  It’s about fair transparent government.

Lessening the appearance of "conflict of interest’ at the MCC could help increase the influence of midcoast residents, which would benefit all of us.  Having a council that is easily overlooked benefits no one.  On Tuesday the Board of Supervisors is considering changing this conflict of interest exception. I strongly support this change.