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Thread: Is this corruption?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Is this corruption?

    Scenario:

    Developer submits a development plan and plat to the Planning Department with a fee that is sustantially less than what is normally required. I know for a fact that this has been set in motion by an individual City Council member at the direction of the Mayor, and the Councilmember has pretty much assured the developer that the plan will be approved. By the way, the development plan does not comply with many of the city's current development codes and policies.

    This may happen all the time, but what are your thoughts on this? Is it corruption that should be reported to the Attorney General's office?
    ...my lifestyle determines my death style!
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  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Approval or rejection of a proposal is politics. A reduced fee is perhaps something else. Was someone "instructed" to accept the lower fee?

    Report corruption to the state? You must already have another job lined up. Just find a way to let other developers know that the fees are flexible. It can make a difference when bidding on a job.

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    Approval or rejection of a proposal is politics. A reduced fee is perhaps something else. Was someone "instructed" to accept the lower fee?

    Report corruption to the state? You must already have another job lined up. Just find a way to let other developers know that the fees are flexible. It can make a difference when bidding on a job.
    I've found a quiet whisper to better-quality competing developers does the trick, if you are concerned about equal treatment. If there is no written policy on fee reductions, or a process established that might include the reductions (i.e. an economic development agreement), then I see an inconsistently applied fee policy ripe for legal challenge. If you have Councilmembers directing staff, that usually runs afoul of a city's Charter and makes them subject to recall & removal.

    I've known a number of Councilmembers that have guaranteed somebody an approval, only to find themselves eating those words when the vote actually takes place. I don't see corruption (yet), but I do see bad behavior that the average citizen would not approve of.

    Your job is to shine a light on every deficiency and notify the decisionmakers of the potential consequences of approving each deficiency. If they approve it anyway, well, the people deserve the government they elect.

    If there is some tit-for-tat going on in a back room, then you've got potential corruption issues. You'll want hard evidence of that before blowing the whistle.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    I agree that this is not evidence of corruption. This could be an indicator that there is underlying corruption, or it could just be bad judgement on the part of the City Council member. My questions are:

    (1) Has any other developer had reduced fees? Why?
    (2) Why is the fee reduced? Is the developer claiming to be doing something different than they are actually doing, or are they giving the correct information about the project but cutting a smaller check than is required?
    (3) is there any documentation/council vote as to why there are reduced fees? I assume that there is some sort of accounting process that tracks fees paid and the reason for payment. What would a FOIA request turn up?

    As far as some council member "promising" that something will go through, I have found that they like to say that to make themselves look important, but often it's just hot air.

    What would worry me are the potential ethics violations. I'm seeing the appearance of impropriety, which is usually all an ehtics charge needs to get going. So maybe you shouldn't be thinking "corruption" and you should be thinking "unethical behavior."

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    pick the right battle here.

    Start by NOT processing the application until the proper fee is submitted. Send the developer quick letter stating such.

    Broadly, a councilmen sheparding a project through the process with support is nothing knew and frankly neither illegal or unethical.

    There is a HUGE difference between a project not meeting "policy" and not meeting "code." Make the distinction and document the parts that do not meet code.

    This is an every day situation for a planner.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u View post
    pick the right battle here.

    Start by NOT processing the application until the proper fee is submitted. Send the developer quick letter stating such.

    Broadly, a councilmen sheparding a project through the process with support is nothing knew and frankly neither illegal or unethical.

    There is a HUGE difference between a project not meeting "policy" and not meeting "code." Make the distinction and document the parts that do not meet code.

    This is an every day situation for a planner.
    Yes. This is the proper course IMHO - play dumb and follow the rules and send everything in writing and do backups. This happens every day and how you handle it will be indicative. And you can bet there are other people out there watching.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm.....

    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    Approval or rejection of a proposal is politics. A reduced fee is perhaps something else. Was someone "instructed" to accept the lower fee?

    Report corruption to the state? You must already have another job lined up. Just find a way to let other developers know that the fees are flexible. It can make a difference when bidding on a job.
    Looks like Mike missed the AICP ethics seminar "How to Fall on Your Sword"

    If the Council doesn't "waive" the fee, you don't have the administrative authority to lower it right? I'm guessing the fee schedule was adopted by resolution or ordinance.
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  8. #8
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    The most I can hope for is that one of the other developers in the city know about this and they eventually take the city (and the City Council) to task on it.
    ...my lifestyle determines my death style!
    - Metallica

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vagaplanner View post
    The most I can hope for is that one of the other developers in the city know about this and they eventually take the city (and the City Council) to task on it.
    You need an "outing" buddy in your local government. You get your anonymous email addresses and he/she outs the crap you're dealing with, and you out the crap he/she deals with. It also helps to know reporters who trust you and won't use your name.

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