Birmingham city commissioners unanimously approved adopting an opinion rendered by the Birmingham Ethics Board on whether city commission members can sit and participate on community boards at their meeting on Monday, September 25, after having it clarified by city attorney Tim Currier.
Currier recommended that commissioners could act in a number of ways, as non-voting board members of community organizations, full voting members, an advisor to the committee, or as a liaison.
Previously, the ethics board, upon a request from city commissioner Patti Bordman as to whether it is a conflict of interest for commissioners to vote and participate on community-based organizations, determined it is a conflict of interest to participate if there is a funding request, licensing issue, or subsequent court proceeding and is barred from participating in such. In addition, commissioners would need to recuse themselves from participating in the city’s consideration of any requests from the organization, and participating in fundraising for the organization would be a conflict of interest.
“If you appoint them as a non-voting liaison, you can appoint them as a member, as an advisor,” said city manager Joe Valentine, in explaining the resolution. “Either way, there is an implication. The advice is to appoint as a non-voting liaison and avoid the issues.”
As to questions from commissioners if it would be better to just put it that way in the resolution, Valentine responded, “We thought it would be better to just adopt the decision and let future commissions decide.”
“I think it would be better to make it a non-voting position. Who will remind commissions in the future?” asked commissioner Rackeline Hoff.
“That’s up to commissions in the future,” Valentine said.
“It provides flexibility, but as we do, future commissions would look at past practices, but it doesn’t lock them in. It sets precedence,” mayor Mark Nickita said.