Tidwell steps back, but defends Black Point connection

Reisdents says Tidwell should recuse himself from Park Place vote

As the Park Place Concept Plan nears a vote at City Commission, one resident is challenging Commissioner Trent Tidwell's ability to take part in the matter.

At the City Commission's regular meeting two weeks ago, Tidwell recused himself from the hearing voluntarily before any question was brought up on the matter. Tidwell said he had no legal obligation to recuse himself, but was doing so to avoid 'casting a black cloud' over the hearing and to 'take the moral high ground.' He did not say what prompted the decision or what potential conflict of interest may exist.

The Park Place Concept Plan is a guiding document for about 180 acres of land near Livesay and Redland roads. Once the land is annexed it is expected to include residential developments of various densities and at least one town center area with amenities such as a grocery store and a laundromat.

Kami Kehoe, chair of the Holcomb-Outlook Citizen Participation Organization, said during the public comment portion of the hearing that Tidwell did in fact have conflicts of interest and asked that he not take part in future decisions on the matter.

She said that Kent Ziegler owns a majority share of the property in the Park Place area and also owns a major portion of the Black Point Inn, which Tidwell uses for free to hold his 'Conversations with a Commissioner' meetings.

'I saw that as a potential conflict of interest because he was offered the use of the facility without charge, and that could be considered a gift if it were not extended to other people,' Kehoe said.

'Because [Ziegler] is a majority landowner in that Park Place Concept area, and because [Ziegler] recently filed for annexation … I see that as a conflict of interest,' she said.

But Tidwell said nothing about his relationship with Ziegler precluded him from weighing the case fairly.

'I have every legal right - I've talked with [City Attorney] Ed Sullivan extensively about that … there's no reason I couldn't think objectively.'

Tidwell said that Ziegler donated money to his campaign contribution fund and did let him use the Black Point Inn, but Tidwell said campaign contributions are a part of government and that Ziegler would let anyone wanting to hold a public forum use the Black Point Inn space.

Sullivan said the campaign contributions aren't considered a conflict of interest, and he hasn't been able to determine that a conflict of interest exists because he said no one has presented enough facts.

'They've done it very vaguely, they haven't presented any facts and the burden of proof is on the one alleging the conflict of interest,' he said.

So Sullivan said he has not advised Tidwell to recuse himself.

'That's a very drastic thing to do, to tell an elected official they can't vote,' he said. 'He excused himself and so I didn't get in the middle of it.'

Tidwell said he didn't participate in the hearing because he simply didn't want to tarnish the hearing.

'Because there was that question, I didn't think it was good to spend 30 minutes or even 30 seconds talking about it,' he said. 'I think it would hinder the decision and it would hurt the plan to spend an inordinate amount of time' discussing it.

But Kehoe said that discussion is a necessary one.

'[Tidwell] had an opportunity to inform everyone of his conflict of interest and he failed to do so,' she said. 'I think he should recuse himself from decisions on the Park Place Concept Plan and [Ziegler's] annexation plan.'