Much of the Dec. 5 Parker Town Council meeting was spent discussing potential conflicts of interest between council members and developer Mike May, who operates Mainstreet Pier LLC, the applicant for the proposed Parker Place Hotel.
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Councilmember Amy Holland, recently hired by one of May's other companies, Mars Hospitality LLC, recused herself from the discussions, but several connections between May and the remaining five members were disclosed.
“It's rare to find so many members of a governing board that have so many connections to the developer,” said Luis Toro of the nonpartisan, nonprofit group Colorado Ethics Watch.
According to state law, Toro said, Holland is the only councilmember who needs to recuse herself. But he said the relationships between the Parker council and May are a “unique situation” because the ties are so numerous.
After 19 residents voiced their concerns during public comment, Town Attorney Jim Maloney addressed the potential conflicts. Maloney said in this case, state law and the town charter only identify a conflict of interest if a councilmember has a “material or significant financial interest” in the hotel.
As such, he stated that Holland was the only council member required to recuse herself, and asked all other members to disclose their connections to May. The next step, he said, would be for the other members to vote on whether those connections constituted conflicts, a procedure also outlined in the town charter.
Four of the five remaining council members then stated their connections to May.
• Councilmember Joshua Rivero stated that he employs one of May's daughters.
• Councilmember Debbie Lewis confirmed that her re-election campaign this year received a $500 contribution from May's wife, Traci. A report filed with the town clerk showed that contributions from May's wife and companies to Lewis' 2012 campaign totaled $1,500, but Lewis did not reference those contributions in her statement. Lewis also stated that Traci May, through the accounting firm May, Jackson and Hendricks LLC, has done her taxes for “a long time.”
• Councilmember Renee Williams stated that she knows May personally and that her taxes were prepared eight years ago by May, Jackson and Hendricks.
• Councilmember John Diak confirmed that he advises Mars Hospitality on its employees' 401(k) plan and has received $269.80 in fees since 2014. He added that he leases office space from May, Jackson and Hendricks.
Maloney said that in a "small town" like Parker, connections such as these are inevitable. He went on to say Diak's fee did not “on its face” constitute a conflict, nor did the campaign contributions Lewis received.
“Can you imagine if a politician couldn't vote because they got campaign contributions?” Maloney said. “That's the way it works.”
Mayor Mike Waid, who only casts a vote in tiebreaking situations,then entertained motions to decide whether the members had conflicts of interest. Each motion was resolved with a 4-0 vote by the other members that they did not.
Julie Allen, a 13-year resident who attended the meeting with her five children, said she opposes the hotel plan because it will bring traffic into the Mainstreet corridor, an area she and her children have long enjoyed walking through.
“My children have danced at the PACE Center, they've checked out thousands of books from the library there,” she said. “You don't put a hotel in the middle of that.”
Allen said she found the process of resolving the potential conflicts to be dubious.
“That they had the very people who were involved in the conflict of interest vote on the conflict of interest,” she said, “to me, that was a conflict in and of itself.”
Town council will decide on whether or not to approve the project on Dec. 12. Allen said she, and her children, plan to attend.
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