Friday, May 17, 2013

Resident: Council has interest conflicts

Says mayor, 2 councilmen should recuse themselves


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

     Sun Valley resident Suzanne Hazlett requested at a City Council meeting on May 2 that Mayor Dewayne Briscoe, Councilman Nils Ribi and Councilman Franz Suhadolnik recuse themselves from any further discussion of or voting on proposed safety improvements to the intersection of Juniper and Elkhorn roads.

     Briscoe gaveled Hazlett before she could finish her comment, saying the issue would be discussed at the council’s next meeting on June 6.

     “Each of these public officials has an inalterable conflict of interest and for them to participate further constitutes unethical conduct,” Hazlett said at the meeting.

     Hazlett said she delivered on April 25 a letter to City Council President Bob Youngman, with copies to Briscoe, Ribi and Suhadolnik, stating her concerns. In the five-page letter, she states that Ribi and Suhadolnik maintain residences that are accessed via Juniper Road and that Briscoe “is engaged to be married to a resident of Sun Valley” who maintains such a residence.

     “It presently appears to be without argument that this intersection does not need augmentation,” she states in the letter.

     Briscoe cut Hazlett’s comment short at the meeting, saying that the council welcomes her opinion and comment, but that the issue is not on the May meeting’s agenda.

     “This is out of order,” he said. “If you wish to make a comment, fine. However, to come to this program and form accusations of members of this council is inappropriate at this time.”

     Briscoe said in a later interview that neither he nor “any relative or close friend” own property accessed by Juniper Road. He also said he would welcome comments from Hazlett about the intersection issue at the council’s June meeting.

     “As mayor, it is my responsibility to respond to citizens’ concerns about the safety of any intersection in the city,” he said, in response to Hazlett’s statement about conflicts of interest.

     The council has dealt with this issue since October, when it set aside about $15,500 to install a streetlight at the intersection and to perform landscaping work to improve its line of sight. The city spent about $6,500 to install the light, but has not conducted any other improvements.

     The city turned the streetlight off in January in response to public comments against it at a city council meeting. Members of the public also requested that the council conduct an “empirical study” of the intersection’s safety.

     Boise-based engineering firm CH2M HILL is expected to present the results of such a study, which cost $5,900, at the June meeting.


Brennan Rego: brego@mtexpress.com




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