Brookhaven official vying for city contract raises ethics concerns

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 1.35.28 PMBrookhaven, GA – On the City’s website you’ll find an Open RFP for the City of Brookhaven’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan. 

In early December concerns over a potential conflict of interest were brought to our attention about a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the city’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan. Two companies are shortlisted for Brookhaven’s contract: Gresham Smith & Partners and Grice Consulting.

John Funny, Owner of Grice Consulting Group is the current Vice-Chair on Brookhaven’s Planning Commission. Funny, a campaign contributor to Mayor J Max Davis, was appointed to the Commission by the Mayor in February of 2013.

We spoke to Mr. Funny and he told us that when Mayor Davis asked if he would serve on the Planning Commission, before he ever accepted the position, he had multiple conversations with then City Attorney Bill Riley regarding whether or not a conflict of interest existed if he were to do business with the city. Funny said he and Riley discussed this in detail and concluded that since the Planning Commission deals with planning and land use rather than transportation, no conflict of interest would be present. Funny said he then accepted the Mayor’s offer to serve on the Commission.

Brookhaven’s Community Development Department rely’s on a standard set of review criteria when contemplating a planning or zoning decision. Depending on the case, one of the “Review Standards and Factors” reads, “Whether the proposal will result in a use which will or could cause an excessive or burdensome use of existing streets, transportation facilities, utilities or schools?”

At times, the Planning Commission does deal with issues concerning traffic and transportation. It’s part of the planning equation and is considered in their decision making process regularly during their meetings. It would seem irresponsible for the Commission to make land use recommendations without considering the impacts on traffic and transportation.

The Post has had several exchanges with the city on this topic. 

City Manager Marie Garrett and City Attorney Tom Currie spoke to us after a recent City Council meeting. They seemed concerned about the perception of questionable ethics or a potential conflict of interest. Other city officials suggested we review the City’s Purchasing Policy.

In reviewing the city’s Purchasing Policy,  “Financial Management Policies: Purchasing Policy which states, “The purpose of this policy is to state the City’s position regarding the purchasing responsibility and authority of non-construction Goods and Services. This document will clarify purchasing functions and outline purchasing policies, as well as describe departmental relationships, responsibilities and participation in the procurement cycle.”

The Policy defines an appointed Commission Member or Board Member as an “Official.

  • GG. OFFICIAL means any elected or appointed person who holds office or serves in a position of public capacity.

Also included in the Purchasing Policy is a section that addresses Conflicts of Interests.

  • A. Employee Conflict of Interest: It shall be unethical for any City of Brookhaven Employee, Official or Agent to transact any business or participate directly or indirectly in a procurement Contract when the Employee or Official knows that: 
    1. The Employee, Official or Agent or any member of the Employee, Official or Agent’s immediate family has a substantial interest or financial interest pertaining to the procurement Contract, except that the purchase of Goods and Services from businesses which a member of the City Council or other City of Brookhaven Employee has a financial interest is authorized as per O.C.G.A. § 36-1-14, or the procurement Contract is awarded pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-10-22 and § 45-10-24, or the transaction is excepted from said restrictions by O.C.G.A. § 45-10-25, interpreting such statutes as if they were applicable to a municipality. 
    2. Any other person, business or organization with whom the Employee, Official, Agent or any member of an Employee, Official or Agent’s immediate family is negotiating or has an arrangement concerning prospective employment is involved in the procurement Contract. 
    3. An Employee, Official, Agent or any member of an Employee, Official or Agent’s immediate family who holds a substantial interest or financial interest in a disclosed blind trust shall not be deemed to have a conflict of interest with regard to matters pertaining to that substantial interest or financial interest. 

All Vendors may be asked to sign a disclosure document indicating any connection to or with a City of Brookhaven Employee or Elected Official.

What do you think? Should a sitting city official be allowed to bid on city contracts?

Tell us below in comments.

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