Port of Olympia commissioners have authorized a probe into Commissioner Amy Evans’ alleged conflict of interest linked to her continuing role as a broker for real estate firm Kidder Matthews.
In a meeting on Mon., Jan. 24, Chairman Bob Iyall seconded a motion by Commissioner Joe Downing to authorize the Port’s executive director and its legal counsel to retain an independent investigator to probe the subject.
The motion also authorized an independent investigator to identify potential future conflicts as well as steps that the Commission should take when a member has a conflict of interest concerning an upcoming Port issue.
Evans, meanwhile, recused herself from voting on the motion.
The issue stems from Evans’ role as a commercial real estate broker for Kidder Matthews, which represents the real estate developer Panattoni in negotiations to lease 200 acres of the Port of Olympia-owned New Market Industrial Campus in Tumwater.
In a letter sent to The JOLT last week, Carla Wulfsberg of Tumwater raised concerns about Evans’ possible conflict of interest and urged the Port Commission to investigate and demonstrate that Evans “can fulfill the duties of commissioner without engaging in any of the four prohibited behaviors set out by the legislature.”
Evan disagrees that there is a conflict of interest between her roles. “I'm really proud of what I do, I'm thankful I get to assist in bringing jobs and tax revenue and business to Thurston County,” Evans said at the meeting. “I've never received a dollar for the work I've done on the Port's property [and] I've given up any future possible pay.”
Evans welcomed further investigations and expressed hope that these will allay concerns about her intentions.
Downing stressed a need for guidance on how to deal with conflicts of interest, noting that the Revised Code of Washington makes clear that an elected official cannot have a financial interest in the outcome of any discussion of an elected body.
“How do we rectify the fact that Commissioner Evans is a duly elected commissioner and we have a potential conflict on the horizon? There's more steps involved with Panattoni, for example, so and there could be other real estate matters,” he said.
During the period for public comments, former Port Commissioner Bill McGregor said the commission's action tonight would put “any future conflict-of-interest issues to bed.”
“There have been many, many times that a Port commissioner has a job outside of their Port-elected abilities,” he said. “There have been instances in the past where these individuals, hardworking people in our communities, are elected to public office and I just want to go on record to say that that's not uncommon.”
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