Mara Brooks, Editor
The town braces for yet another conflict-of-interest scandal
New trouble is brewing at the ZBA.
ZBA Chair Lane Morrison asked the Selectboard Monday to remove Ronda Moore from the zoning board citing her failure to disclose a conflict of interest with applicant The Charlotte Family Health Center. Moore, an attorney by trade, was appointed to the ZBA in May after four former board members resigned following months of public speculation regarding conflicts of interest among town officials.
“I think she’s violated the trust that the Selectboard has put in her to represent the community on the ZBA to be fair and open,” Morrison said at the Selectboard meeting. “I just want to lay that on the table.”
Moore, who is an adjoining property owner to the proposed health center, expressed concerns at a June 3 joint ZBA/Planning Commission meeting that the proposed site at 251 Ferry Road is a wetlands area and that oil, gas, and antifreeze from cars parked in the lot could pollute the wetland.
At a June 17 PC meeting, attorney Jon Anderson introduced a petition opposing the project which Moore had reportedly helped circulate.
“I believe it’s irrefutable that many people in town, including myself, perceive her involvement in the process to be a conflict of interest,” Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow said. “Ronda’s seeming inability to understand the conflict-of-interest policy is unsettling and disappointing.”
Moore recused herself from the June 3 vote on whether the health center required a conditional use permit, but for Krasnow, the gesture was beside the point.
“It’s not even about recusing herself or not, it’s about purposefully failing to raise the issue when she knew that there may be an actual or perceived conflict of interest with an applicant at the time the application came before the board,” Krasnow said. “That’s the time to raise it. She didn’t follow the policy to raise that issue and discuss it in an open meeting format with the applicants there and with the other zoning board colleagues to talk about that issue before the application moves forward.”
Kranow said that the ZBA’s policy includes language about “a perception” of conflict of interest, which “requires each board member to consider how their colleagues on the board and their neighbors in Charlotte would perceive the situation.”
As for Moore’s concerns about the wetland area, Krasnow said, “while her concerns may be legitimate to her, my layperson’s understanding is there’s no legal basis for them.”
Krasnow said the applicant’s “certified and professional engineer” stated at the ZBA hearing “that the site plan and design are complying with all state standards for water quality protection. This is the standard that is expected equally of all applicants in town.”
According to Krasnow, ZBA rules of procedure require the board to vote on Morrison’s recommendation to remove Moore.
“So, the Selectboard will need to wait before deciding whether or not to remove [Moore] which would happen the next time the ZBA schedules an open meeting to do so,” Krasnow said.