La Paz County District 1 Supervisor David Plunkett did not need to recuse himself on the matter of rezoning for a garage door plant in Bouse as he did not have a conflict of interest. That was what Chief Deputy Civil County Attorney Jason Mitchell told the La Paz County Board of Supervisors at their Nov. 6 meeting.

Mitchell made a presentation on Arizona’s conflict of interest laws for public officials following the issue being raised at the Board’s Oct. 17 meeting. At a public hearing on a proposed rezoning for Unique Garage Doors, Inc., Michael Noeltner demanded Plunkett recuse himself as Plunkett owned property nearby. He said this constituted a conflict of interest as the value of that property could increase.

Plunkett, who recused himself, said at the Nov. 6 meeting that he felt “ambushed” by the issue being raised Oct. 17 and didn’t know how to respond.

“I want to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Mitchell referred to Chapter 8 of the Arizona Agency Handbook put out by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. He said public officials need to answer three questions the AG’s office said must be answered to determine if there is a conflict of interest:

“Could the decision affect, either positively or negatively, an interest of the officer or employee or the officer’s or employee’s relative?

Is the interest a pecuniary or proprietary interest? Could it affect a financial interest or ownership interest?

Is the interest something that is not statutorily designated as a remote interest?”

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” the Arizona Agency Handbook said a substantial interest exists and must be declared by the public officials and the official must recuse himself or herself.

“The public officer or employee must file a conflict of interest form which fully discloses the substantial interest with the appropriate agency or governmental unit, and must refrain from participating in any manner in discussions or decisions relating to the matter,” the handbook said.

“Remote Interests” are covered under ARS 38-502(10). As a practical example, Mitchell said that, if Plunkett sold a piece of property and the new owners decided to rezone it, that would not be a conflict. On the other hand, if he sold the property with an agreement that it would be rezoned, that would be a conflict.

Plunkett told Mitchell he owned property close to the one Unique Garage Doors wanted to rezone. Mitchell said this would not be a conflict, as it was a remote interest and speculative.

“You don’t know if the value will go up or down,” Mitchell said.

In summary, Mitchell said Plunkett did not have a conflict of interest as defined by Arizona law and he did not need to recuse himself.

Plunkett said he appreciated Mitchell’s presentation as he owns property and, as a real estate broker, he represents property owners all over the county.

“To say I shouldn’t have a say in anything regarding real estate is ludicrous,” he said. “By that standard, Holly (District 3 Supervisor Holly Irwin) couldn’t vote on anything regarding the Sheriff’s Office because her husband works there.”

Irwin told the audience and the other Supervisors that, when it came to matters regarding salaries and position changes in the Sheriff’s Office, she has recused herself.

Plunkett added he would support and approve something that benefits the county.

District 2 Supervisor said it made no sense to him to claim Plunkett had a conflict of interest. If there was what he called an “arm’s length” transaction and the new owners decided to rezone, Plunkett wouldn’t gain anything from the rezoning.

At the Oct. 17 meeting, following Plunkett’s recusal, the issue of the rezoning came up for a vote. Minor made a motion to approve it, while Irwin declined to second motion. The motion to approve the motion died for lack of a second.

Minor said the matter isn’t really dead as the Supervisors did not actually take any action on it.

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(3) comments

sam whittemore

we checked ourselves, and we are fine!!! lol.

daddynewsom

im in real estate, the fact that we had to invest any amount of time and effort into this absurd "accusation" is ridiculous. people with no knowledge of anything (let alone land values, land use, and the economics associated with such topics) get to spew their useless opinions and the rest of us have to take the time to explain to the person why theyre wrong and why they should keep their mouth shut on topics they have no idea what theyre talking about.

fred nelson

ya, Right.

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