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Inquiry Asked on Councilman’s Vote

A city councilman has asked for an investigation into whether a fellow councilman violated conflict of interest codes when he voted to approve the removal of traffic diverters in front of his Claussen Street home.

Bob Dinsen asked the Fair Political Practices Commission for an opinion after Councilman Mark Leyes voted in favor of removing orange plastic diverters from in front of his home last month. Leyes had abstained from voting when the installation of the diverters was approved four months earlier.

During council discussions on the matter in August, Leyes cited a possible conflict of interest and excused himself from discussions about a variety of street work in the area, including the diverters, minutes reflected.

The diverters initially were approved to slow traffic on Claussen Street and prohibit drivers from using it as a bypass, although traffic studies showed that no serious problem existed.

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Leyes and his neighbors have differed on the effectiveness of the diverters since they were installed in September. Leyes said he finds the street more dangerous with the cones than without, while many neighbors say the diverters have helped to solve neighborhood traffic problems.

City Atty. John Shaw said he sees no conflict, because the council’s first vote included a variety of street work, while the second was only for the removal of the diverters. “When you remove the cones, you restore the street as it was,” he said. “That is a different issue than what it was four or five months ago.”

Gary Hickaby of the FPPC said conflicts are most common when votes result in a financial benefit to the elected official. A conflict can also exist if an official makes a decision on real estate within 300 feet of his own property.

Leyes said Dinsen “is wasting tax dollars by asking a state agency to investigate a matter that the city attorney already stated is nonexistent.”

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In addition to questioning the potential conflict of interest, Dinsen said he is concerned that area residents weren’t notified that removal of the diverters was on the agenda. A public hearing on the issue wasn’t required by law.

“I don’t care if they’re up or down, as long as it’s done legally,” Dinsen said.


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