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Conflict of interest questions are part of the larger due process consideration of the impartiality of the planning board or commission. Simply stated, every party before your board is entitled to a fair hearing and decision, free from bias or favor. Having a conflict of interest can threaten that impartiality. Therefore, it is critical that conflictsbe identified and dealt with in an appropriate manner.
The key to the hypothetical situation is not just that your spouse worked for the individual in the past. Previous business dealings with someone appearing before your board is not necessarily enough to establish a conflict of interest, although such past business relationships should be publicly disclosed. More troublesome is the fact that you know your spouse hopes to land more work in the future. As a result, it is conceivable that your decision on the requested zoning change could be affected by this. ...
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C. Gregory Dale, FAICP, is a founding Principal with McBride Dale Clarion, the Cincinnati affiliate office of Clarion Associates. He has managed planning projects throughout the country, and is also a frequent speaker at planning and zoning workshops and conferences.
Between 1991 and 2009, Dale authored 31 articles for the Planning Commissioners Journal, including 21 for our Ethics & the Planning Commission series, and others on a variety of transportation and zoning topics. Dale is also a co-author of The Planning Commissioners Guide (American Planning Association, 2013).