Ethics & the Planning Commission

The Cheese-Counter Encounter

March 10th, 2014

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cheese illustrations

Imagine you’re in your town’s grocery store trying to select some cheeses for your dinner party later that day. You hear a familiar voice approaching you from behind, and you turn to see a fellow commissioner. You exchange pleasantries. Then she starts talking about a matter that’s pending before your commission, trying to convince you to vote against the application.

The hearing on the case is over, and your commission just needs to make a decision at its next meeting. You start to get uncomfortable with the conversation. Politely, you tell her you really have to go, taking both cheeses with you.

Is it wrong to “lobby” a fellow commissioner?

Over dinner that evening where another commissioner is your guest, you talk about your cheese-counter conversation in hypothetical terms, and your commissioner-guest relates non-hypothetically that he’s been approached by the other commissioner, and that she’s tried to convince him to deny the application too. Is it wrong to “lobby” a fellow commissioner?

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Ben FrostBen Frost is the Director of Public Affairs at New Hampshire Housing, where he coordinates federal and state legislative initiatives and provides direct technical assistance to municipalities to help them develop regulations promoting affordable housing and sustainable development. He frequently lectures on issues of affordable and workforce housing, planning and zoning law, and ethics.

Ben has over 25 years of experience as a land use planner, and over 15 years as an attorney. Previously, he was a Senior Planner with the NH Office of Energy and Planning, he was the executive director of the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, and he was also a planner and administrator in local and regional government in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

Ben is also past chairman of the Municipal Section of the New Hampshire Bar Association and is a founding director of the NH Municipal Lawyers Association. He serves as the Treasurer of the NH Planners Association and as the Professional Development Officer of the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association. Ben holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Geography from Colgate University and Syracuse University, respectively and a law degree from Cornell Law School. He lives in Warner, NH, where he serves on the planning board.

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