None of the three Kingman County Commissioners will be prevented from voting on a special-use permit application for British Petroleum’s wind energy project because of potential conflicts of interest.
Earlier this month, Kingman County Counselor Frank Meisenheimer requested an opinion from the Kansas Governemtnal Ethics Commission regarding potential conflicts of interest for all three:
* Commissioners Earl Reno and John Steffen and/or Steffen’s immediate family own real estate in Kingman County, which is leased to BP for wind farm use. Both have previously received lease payments from BP. Also, Reno’s land is in the general area expected to be developed for the project.
* Commissioner Carol Voran is employed by a title company that may be requested to perform title work for BP.
The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission discussed the issue at its meeting last week and endorsed an opinion that all three were eligible to vote.
State statute says no local government officer shall “make or participate in the making of a contract” with anyone by which he is employed or in whose business he has a substantial interest, the opinion noted.
“Because the approval of the special-use permit is legislative in nature and does not involve the ‘making of a contract,’ ” the opinion stated, the law does not prohibit any commissioner from voting on the permit.
The opinion pointed out, though, that another statute requires disclosure by a local government official before participating in actions other than contracts that may affect his or her private business interests.
Once Kingman County Commissioners have filed the appropriate Statement of Substantial Interests, they “may participate in discussions and vote on the approval or disapproval” of the special-use permit application, the opinion stated.
Steffen said the permit application has not come up for a vote, but Meisenheimer wanted to check it out with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.
“We don’t want to do anything wrong, but we want to get the project,” Reno said.
The News was unable to reach Voran or Meisenheimer.
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