Selectboard holds discussion with Marks on possible conflict of interest

The Hinesburg Selectboard held a discussion with Conservation Commission member Bill Marks last week regarding concerns some board members had regarding a potential conflict of interest.

On Jan. 30, the board asked Marks to discuss a possible conflict of interest that might exist due to his membership on the Conservation Commission while he maintains intervenor status in a Vermont Supreme Court case. The group lodged an appeal with the Vermont Supreme Court last fall.

When Selectboard member Tom Ayer asked Marks if he thought he had a conflict, Marks responded, “No.” He went on to attempt to quash any concern board members might have on a possible conflict, noting that the majority of conflicts are financial in nature.

“I have nothing personal to gain,” Marks said, noting his advocacy stems from a desire to protect Geprags Park.

Ayer also brought up concerns regarding Marks’s sending copies of emails regarding the town and Vermont Gas to James Dumont, an attorney who represents the citizens who lodged the complaint with the Supreme Court. Dumont is also Marks’s personal lawyer, Marks said.

“Mr. Dumont doesn’t work for the town or for Vermont Gas,” Ayer said to Marks.

During the Jan. 9 Selectboard meeting, Marks asked the board to change the “communications protocol” between the town and Vermont Gas. Selectboard members declined. Under a Selectboard request, Town Administrator Trevor Lashua handles communications between the town and the South Burlington utility.

In mid-January, Lashua, Marks, Conservation Commission member Bill Hyams, and Vermont Gas personnel attended a meeting to set up a protocol for drilling. During the Jan. 10 Conservation Commission meeting, the panel received an update on meetings with the utility.

Selectboard member Andrea Morgante noted that she felt that the concerns regarding the communications weren’t “pertinent” to the conflict of interest concern. However, fellow Selectboard member Aaron Kimball noted that a perception regarding a conflict exists and Kimball asked Marks to acknowledge that. Selectboard member Phil Pouech also questioned Marks on the conflict of interest claim, but noted there isn’t any evidence any problem exists.

“There’s been conflict all over this pipeline since day one,” Pouech said. “The question is if there’s personal conflict with the two positions.”

Marks also pointed out that he would do nothing to undermine the Conservation Commission’s role. He added after the meeting he will remain as part of the intervenor group.

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