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A Conflict of Interest on the Arlington County Board?

The Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey posted a story today about the "latest spat" on the Arlington County Board. The title of his story included the question: "conflict of interest, or tempest in teapot?" Here's the lede from McCaffrey's story:

"The increasingly contentious battle over the future of a streetcar line throughout the Columbia Pike corridor took another twist Thursday, with one County Board member saying the process needs to be halted in order to fully vet her concerns about a potential conflict of interest by a board colleague.

"At issue: A consulting contract between board member and streetcar advocate Chris Zimmerman and AECom Canada East, which has provided services related to Arlington’s transit planning along with other consulting and project-management services to the county government.

"In a Dec. 5 letter to board colleagues, county manager and county attorney, County Board member Libby Garvey – the lone opponent of the streetcar among the five-member body – said there were enough red flags raised by the relationship to delay moving forward next Monday, when the board will consider adoption of rules governing public-private partnerships on transportation matters.

"Garvey said she wasn’t accusing Zimmerman of any wrongdoing. But in both her letter and in follow-up comments, she said the time needs to be taken to get answers to the questions she is raising."

At the Washington Post's blog, Virginia Politics, today Patricia Sullivan wrote about the conflict of interest charges, writing:

"Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey is questioning whether fellow board member Chris Zimmerman should vote on a matter related to the Columbia Pike streetcar project because he is a consultant with a major international construction firm that has worked for Arlington on transit issues."

Separately from the conflict of interest charges, on Thursday, the Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan wrote about the options being debated by the County Board masterminds for the Columbia Pike streetcar initiative. In the lede, she wrote:

"No sooner had Chairman Mary Hynes declared Tuesday night’s workshop a “learning journey,” then board member Libby Garvey called for an independent cost-benefit analysis of a streetcar system versus a bus rapid transit alternative. “There’s never been an informed and public conversation about this,” Garvey said."

Sure sounds as if the taxpayers of Arlington County need an Inspector General to watch over county operations.

UPDATE (12/10/12): Over the weekend, the Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan posted a story saying the "Arlington board publicly rejects conflict-of-interest charge by fellow member." Her story's lede said:

"The majority of the Arlington County Board on Saturday publicly rejected member Libby Garvey’s charge that another board member has a potential conflict of interest that could compromise board decisions on transportation projects.

"But board Chairman Mary H. Hynes, in a statement co-signed by board members J. Walter Te­jada and Jay Fisette, reaffirmed the county attorney’s opinion that Chris Zimmerman has no conflict of interest. The three board members declared themselves “dismayed” by Garvey’s decision to release her e-mails on the topic to the news media. Zimmerman consults for a company that is working on Arlington transportation projects, including portions of the Columbia Pike streetcar system."

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