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Waste management board adopts conflict of interest policy

The Mecklenburg County Waste Management Advisory Board today adopted the county commissioners’ conflict of interest policy after conflicts of interest concerns arose regarding the ReVenture Park plant.

County attorney Marvin Bethune told the WMAB to continue weighing the pros and cons of the proposed plant, which would convert the county’s garbage to fuel to power homes using a process called gasification.

Bethune told the WMAB that a Board of County Commissioner’s policy requires members having conflicts of interest regarding a matter upon which a board is voting to excuse themselves from discussions and votes.

Bethune also said Bruce Gledhill, the county’s solid-waste director, said he was not aware of the policy and neither was the WMAB.

Previously, the WMAB’s unwritten policy was for members to disclose any conflicts of interest prior to a discussion and then decline to vote on the matter. The WMAB bylaws state that the board also follows Robert’s Rules of Order, which only specifies that members with a conflict of interest should not vote.

After adopting the county’s policy, the following WMAB members recused themselves from future ReVenture discussions and votes: Rich Deming, a principal with Charlotte-based Calor Energy, a consulting company for the ReVenture project; Ollie Frazier, a contractor with Calor; Linda Ashendorf, in charge of government services for Phoenix-based Republic Waste Services; and Jessica Halvorsen, who cited a “potential appearance of impropriety” but did not elaborate further. All four have also stepped down from committees tasked with completing forms that detail the ReVenture decision-making process.

Halvorsen, an environmental manager with Bank of America, is on the board of directors for Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit focused on advancing sustainability, according to Sustain Charlotte’s website. She is also a member of Central Piedmont Community College’s Center for Sustainability Advisory Board, according to that board’s website.

Sustain Charlotte’s executive director, Shannon Binns, who emphasized that he was speaking on behalf of himself and not Sustain Charlotte, had voiced concerns over conflicts of interest involving some members of the WMAB and the ReVenture Advisory Council, which was created by the WMAB to research the technology behind the plant.

It was e-mails from Binns and others, like Bill Gupton, chairman of Central Piedmont Sierra Club, that led Bethune to examine the issue.

Tara Ramsey can be reached at tara.ramsey@mecktimes.com.

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