Q&A: Executive session and conflict of interest

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From the Carroll County Comet:

Q: The Delphi City Council is meeting in executive session to discuss a land purchase. The story is this: A group, Swift Development Corp., wants the city to purchase land for it adjacent to the city-owned airport. The mayor is hot to do this. Swift is promising to give the city and the county any extra aviation fuel that they will make there to be used in trucks in return for the land and the building and a hangar and a new runway and on and on and on. The Swift people are invited to the session, as is the airport manager and the airport engineer. The airport manager holds stock in Swift and has been promised a job with them, and the engineering firm has traded their services to Swift for stock.

Who is allowed to attend the meeting? There seems to be major conflicts of interest going on here.

A: If the executive session is the discuss strategy concerning the purchase of land as allowed under I.C. 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(2)(D) the meeting arrangement you have described doesn’t appear to be a problem. Swift, the airport manager and engineering firm are not bargaining adversaries because the land is to be purchased from some other party, so their inclusion in the meeting doesn’t violate the statute.

Executive session attendance isn’t limited to the council but others they deem necessary.

As to your reference to conflicts of interest, neither the airport manager or engineering firm has a vote on the council, so there isn’t a legal conflict of interest in the vote on the land purchase.

Only the council members could have a potential conflict of interest if they were benefiting financially from the land purchase. Any possible conflict of interest for the airport manager or engineering firm would be from an ethical standpoint rather than state law.