Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wildes Say No Conflict of Interest: Investigation Needed

The Standard Times ran their first story on the fired son of Water Czar Will Wilde and his hiring as an inspector on the Hickory Water pipeline project.  
Blake Wilde said his father has no involvement in his work.

If Blake read Texas law on conflict of interest, he'd know:
A local official is considered to have the same interest in a business entity that his or her close relatives have in that business entity. 

Conflict of interest applies to elected and paid positions.  "Within a governmental unit, “local public officials” are defined to include:
1. elected officials such as the members of the city council or county commissioners (whether paid or unpaid); and
2. appointed officials (paid or unpaid) who exercise responsibilities that are more than advisory in nature.

The City's Comprehensive Annual Financial Audit lists Principal Officials, one of which is Will Wilde:

Given principal officials exercise responsibilities that are "more than advisory in nature," state conflict of interest law would seem to apply.

As I read the Standard Times piece, many of the statements didn't add up.  While the city is yet to answer my first set of questions (including how much Wilde Engineering has been paid to date), I offer these additional questions:
1.  Did Carollo's Musallam know Blake had been fired from the city when he hired Blake as an inspector? There may or may not be an issue of misrepresentation.

2.  What kind of engineering work did Blake do for the city and does that qualify him for work on a water pipeline?  Blake's website shows roads.  There could be an issue of competency.

3.  If Musallam talked to the city attorney prior to hiring Blake, was he told by city officials of Blake's termination status, not eligible for rehire?  When did the conflict of interest conversation between Musallam and the city attorney occur?

4. The safe thing for "cautious people" to do would be to fill out conflict of interest forms.  Did either Blake or Will do so in regard to Wilde Engineering's work as a Hickory subcontractor?  If so, the city could easily produce these for the public

I doubt Hutch Mussallam got the whole story prior to hiring Blake, but I've been wrong before and will be again.  Musallam is now caught between a proverbial rock and a hard place.  Two councilmen chewed Musallam's backside on the schedule.  The same duo gave Will Wilde wide berth on the unauthorized purchase and installation of $100,000 in furniture for the Water Department.  Mr. Musallam would get council's wrath long before Wilde.

Precedent on conflict of interest had city officials misrepresenting Mayor Alvin New's Board of Director position with MedHab, a company receiving $3.6 million in economic development assistance from the City.  While New filed two affidavits in  regard to his MedHab investment, these were not produced for the public to view.  The public found Council's relaxing local conflict of interest standards to not pass the smell test.  Has the odor returned?
City residents will need to conduct their own "smell test" and ask whether they see a director unfairly singled out, or whether they smell something gone afoul.

It's not residents job to ensure paid city leaders act ethically and responsibly.  That's City Council's and the City Manager's.  I see paid city leaders not answering my questions, when they freely did so in the past under Ty Meighan's tenure as Public Information Office.  I've yet to see follow up in council on concerns previously identified, like the furniture fiasco.

So far it's been sweep, sweep, but that could change.

Update:  GASB is very concerned about conflicts of interest, as is the Engineering profession. Other groups, like most local nonprofits, have higher conflict of interest standards than the City of San Angelo.

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