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Mayor to pass on vote
On city funding for agencies she works for
Sunday, April 13, 2014
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Mayor Kim Adkins should abstain from Martinsville City Council decisions on whether to fund two organizations outside the city’s realms because she is paid for work she does for them, according to City Attorney Eric Monday.
Adkins said she will comply with that recommendation.
The city’s proposed fiscal 2015 budget includes $4,832 for the Piedmont Virginia Dental Health Foundation, which operates a dental clinic that treats indigent people, and $3,850 for The Launch Place (formerly the Southside Business Technology Center), which provides business consulting services, including help with developing entrepreneurial ventures, its website shows.
Adkins owns KEA Consulting Services, a marketing and public relations firm. During a council budget work session Thursday night, she disclosed that the dental foundation and The Launch Place are among her clients.
Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge contacted Monday and the Martinsville Bulletin on Friday, expressing concern about a possible conflict of interest by Adkins.
“As long as the mayor is serving as a consultant to local agencies,” Hodge wrote in a letter to the Bulletin, “she should recuse herself from voting to give them money since they are paying her.”
Monday agreed. In a memorandum he sent to Adkins, Hodge and other city officials on Friday, he wrote that based on state code, Adkins should not be able to vote on a budget transaction involving “clients paying her directly.”
Article 4, Section 2.2-3112, Subsection A-3 of the Code of Virginia states that a local official with “a personal interest in a transaction” of the locality can participate in the transaction when a party to it is a client of the official’s firm, if the official “does not personally represent or provide services” to that client.
Adkins has stated she is providing services to the two organizations herself, Monday said.
Monday said the council will need to vote on whether to fund the dental foundation and The Launch Place — and how much they will receive — separately and Adkins will have to abstain.
She then could vote on funding other “outside agencies,” overall funding provided to the organizations and/or the entire city budget proposal, Monday said.
Under the state code, “she is not prohibited from voting on the budget as a whole, once the issue of the individual appropriations (to the organizations she works for) has been determined,” he wrote in the memorandum.
According to Monday, the code specifies a threshold of personal interest of $10,000. Adkins said Friday that The Launch Place is paying her more than that but the dental foundation is paying her less.
Therefore, she technically could participate in a vote on the foundation’s funding request. Monday said, however, that he suggests Adkins be cautious and “abstain from (votes) on both” organizations’ allocations.
Adkins said she “absolutely” will not take part in votes on either.
Monday said Adkins’ disclosure of her services to the organizations during the council meeting “was sufficient” under state code.
Still, he prepared a written disclosure statement for her to sign “out of an abundance of caution,” he said.
As of Friday afternoon, Adkins had not yet signed it, but she said she will.
Adkins legally is able to work for the organizations, Monday said, because neither is a city department or controlled by the council.