Pocatello–On Wednesday evening, the local watchdog group Pocatello for Accountable Government Entities posted a lengthy response to Mayor Blad’s announcement of his choices to fill the two remaining vacancies on the City Council. They point out that one of the mayor’s chosen candidates, Brent Nichols, is married to City Administrative Manager Anne Nichols, creating at least the appearance of a conflict of interest. In closing, they call on citizens to contact Mayor Blad and express their concerns about this appointment.
The complete post reads:
MORE CONFLICTS OF INTEREST ON POCATELLO CITY COUNCIL
It is incredibly disturbing and troublesome that the Mayor has selected a city council member (from a field of 38 candidates) with direct family ties to a current city employee. Once again, this selection unnecessarily creates a situation in which “personal agendas” or “private interests” (financial or other) bring into question the impartiality of a council member during critical votes. Votes with direct city employee impact such as wages, benefits, departmental budgeting and expenditures will be compromised by this conflict of interest. Citizens expect their City Council representatives to act for them and not for any select group, including city employees. Anyone with a direct familial relationship is subject to question and has, at a minimum, the appearance of bias potentially impacting their objectivity.
Because Idaho statutes so narrowly and rudimentarily define “conflicts of interest”, perhaps some Idaho citizens have collectively lost touch with the reality that higher ethical standards require diligence in avoiding creation of the above situations (actual, perceived or implied conflicts of interest.) The “optics” of such Council representation will not only damage outside perceptions of our community but may also harm local economic development. When serving the public, a good rule to follow is “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”
With the impending Thursday confirmations to fill vacant city council seats, the Council may soon have two members on council directly related to active employees including: 1) the elected Councilman, Josh Mansfield, the son of the Public Works Director, Jeff Mansfield. The Public Works Director is responsible for direct oversight of Water, WPC, Engineering, Science & Environment, GIS, and additionally the Sanitation, Street, and Fleet departments who are headed by the Deputy Public Works Director; and 2) soon-to-be-mayor-appointed Brent Nichols, the husband of the City of Pocatello’s Administrative Services Manager, Anne Nichols, who serves directly under the Mayor and per her posted job description, directly supervises employees in the Mayor’s office, Clerk’s Office and in Economic Development in addition to preparing and monitoring the Mayor’s office budget. Additionally, the Mayor recently recommended the appointment of the retired Police Chief, Scott Marchand (note that the Police Department has the largest departmental budget within the General Fund, the fund primarily supported by property tax dollars.)
We call on the four current council members to deny confirmation of this appointment, an action within their authority, in order to demonstrate to our community their commitment to higher ethical standards and to ensure a balanced council representative of the broad and diverse community of Pocatello.
We also strongly encourage Pocatello residents to contact the Mayor regarding your thoughts on this pending appointment.
For more information about P.A.G.E. and their efforts to shed light on the inner workings of Pocatello’s government, click here.