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How do you handle gifts or other offers of value that are made to you in your capacity as planning commissioner?
Consider this scenario. You are invited to attend a local sporting event by a developer who has a development approval pending before the planning commission. The offer involves dinner in the private box of the developer. What is your response? Does your response change if the invitation comes from a local developer who does not have an item pending before the commission? Does it change it if the entire commission is invited?
How would you handle a weekend retreat invitation from a conservation group that is active in lobbying local governments?
There are many variations on this scenario. Some involve offers to travel to view similar projects by the same developer. Some involve offers to use facilities such as resort condominiums. Some involve something as seemingly harmless as a fruit basket delivered during the holiday season. Certainly developers are not alone in this area. How would you handle a weekend retreat invitation from a conservation group that is active in lobbying local governments?
All of these scenarios raise the same ethical issue. Is there an attempt being made to influence your vote or attitude towards a particular project, individual, group, or issue? I believe the answer to this question for all of the scenarios described above is “yes.”
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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).