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New Law: Conflict of interest clarifications

Published (4/25/2008)
By Mike Cook
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A new law is designed to attract and retain volunteers to serve on municipal economic development authorities.

It further defines actions to be considered a conflict of interest, and it establishes procedures to address such conflicts for authority members. The law makes the rules similar to those for members of a housing and redevelopment authority, whereby a member can declare a potential conflict of interest, abstain from discussion and abstain from voting.

The law, signed April 17 by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and effective the next day, stems from a case in Grand Rapids where what a board thought was standard operating procedure could have resulted in a gross misdemeanor for several members.

Instead of abstaining, a member had to resign because he owned a window store in town. The EDA was assembling a loan fund to expedite some economic development, and there was a chance he could ultimately sell windows to a company that obtained an EDA loan.

Supporters said current rules make it hard to fill EDA seats, even if there are many people in the local business community who have the right skill-set and would like to participate.

Rep. Loren Solberg (DFL-Grand Rapids) and Sen. Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids) sponsor the law.


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