As of next month, those applying for a position on one of Union County’s committees may no longer have to file a conflict of interest form.
County commissioners heard arguments during a public hearing over the order requiring each applicant to fill out the form, a requirement enacted by the previous board. The discussion was held during the commission’s Monday, Feb. 21 meeting.
“We’ve started down the path to get rid of disclosure,” Commissioner Kim Rogers said. “If the people aren’t transparent, the operations aren’t transparent.”
The forms require any applicant to list all the properties they own or have an interest in. They do not require anyone to detail property belonging to family members, a question a number of residents raised in e-mails to the Union County Weekly. The forms are similar to the ones county commissioners are required to fill out when they take office, although the county version is more detailed.
During the public hearing, Union County residents questioned how the committees would operate without the disclosure forms.
“The problem is that some people want to use those positions to benefit themselves,” Weddington resident Walker Davidson said. “You start (vetting) them by asking some questions. That’s what businesses do.”
Without the disclosure forms, the county could appoint someone who might approve zoning for his or her own project, former planning board Chairman Jim King told commissioners.
He recalled a 2007 planning board meeting when a member of the board recused himself from a vote, walked around the podium and signed up to speak in favor of the proposed project.
The county’s current planning board voted unanimously earlier this month to repeal the disclosure form requirement.
Commissioner Todd Johnson said he doesn’t see the purpose for the forms, saying they only add extra paperwork. “I don’t see the point, especially (with) a form that’s not policed and put in a file,” Johnson said.
He was referring to County Manager Cindy Coto’s comments during the commission’s Dec. 20 meeting. When commissioners asked Coto what county staff did with the disclosure forms, she said she thought the forms are kept on file but not actually monitored or policed for possible violations.