An attorney has concluded that two ethics complaints lodged against members of the Board of Directors of C-TRAN are without merit and recommended that no further action be taken in either case.
In one complaint, Clark County commissioner and C-TRAN board member David Madore alleged that Vancouver mayor and fellow board member Tim Leavitt failed to disclose that the company he works for, PBS Engineering and Environmental, has a contract with TriMet, the Portland transit agency, while the C-TRAN board was considering the terms of an agreement with TriMet for the operation of light rail in Clark County.
Leavitt cast two votes favorable to the proposed TriMet agreement on May 21, then recused himself from a third vote after Madore raised the conflict of interest issue.
Madore filed a protest on May 28, alleging that Leavitt should have recused himself from such voting in compliance with the C-TRAN Code of Ethics and state law.
The C-TRAN Code of Ethics states that board members are to disclose any financial or personal interest which would tend to impair their independent judgment and then abstain from voting. The policy applies to “even the appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest between public duties and private interests.”
Madore distributed a copy of a contract between TriMet and PBS Engineering and Environmental that identified Leavitt as a “Senior Environmental Engineer.” Madore said multiple contracts between PBS and TriMet has been ongoing for more than four years with Leavitt named in each one.
C-TRAN attorney Tom Wolfendale provided copies of his report on the Leavitt protest to C-TRAN board members and discussed the issue during an executive session of the C-TRAN board on Aug. 13.
C-TRAN spokesman Jim Quintana said Wolfendale did not recommend further action by the C-TRAN board on the conflict allegation. Wolfendale’s report was not released to the public or media. Quintana said a person who is the subject of an ethics investigation has the option to have such a report withheld or released.
Leavitt could release the report to the public but did not return a phone call to be asked to do so.
Madore not conflicted either
In a separate action, Wolfendale reviewed whether Madore had a conflict of interest in voting on light rail issues because he had contributed to the campaign of State Sen. Donald Benton, known to be opposed to light rail, and to NoTolls.com, a political action website.
Quintana said the allegations against Madore stemmed from remarks made by board members Bart Hansen and Leavitt at the May 21 meeting. Those remarks were followed by the submission of campaign contribution reports, he said.
Wolfendale’s report states that the complaint alleges that the political contributions constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics, and that “contributions to entities or people opposed to the CRC project are against the best interests of C-TRAN.”
Wolfendale concluded that “an elected official does not forfeit her/his right to participate in the political process by virtue of sitting on a public agency board.”
“Public officials may make clearly identified public contributions to political persons or organizations of her/his choosing,” wrote Wolfendale.
Wolfendale noted that Madore’s contributions to Benton and NoTolls.com pre-dated his election as a county commissioner and service on the C-TRAN board. Therefore, he wrote, the Code would not apply to contributions made before his term.
Wolfendale also concluded that had Madore made similar contributions after his election, he would still not be in violation of the Code of Ethics.
Madore asked that Wolfendale’s report on allegations against him be made public. Wolfendale discussed the contents of the report during the public portion of the Board’s Aug. 13 meeting.
The board could still pursue the two matters but has given no indication of an intent to do so.
Marvin Case may be reached at (360) 687-4122 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.