The Langley Ethics and Training Advisory Board opined that former city councilwoman Rene Neff’s request for allocating tourism funding to the Island Shakespeare Festival was not ethically improper.
Neff, who is a member of the festival’s board of directors, requested the advisory opinion. At an Oct. 3, 2016, meeting, Neff asked for additional funding for the summertime plays. Neff recused herself from voting on the increase in funding but did not “fully withdraw” from the meeting during the discussion of the request.
More than a year later at an Oct. 16 meeting, the request drew a comment from Mayor Tim Callison who stated that it was improper and a potential conflict of interest.
The board considered transparency, dilligence and integirty as the ethical values surrounding its opinion. The board found that while Neff’s request “may technically suggest ethical misconduct,” it gave her the benefit of the doubt that she acted on good faith by disclosing her involvement with the festival and by recusing herself from the vote. It also found that not leaving the meeting during the discussion is not sufficient to consider her actions ethically improper.
The board suggested that to avoid potential for conflicts of interest, city council members should not formally introduce appeals for funding. It also advised that requests for funding be made by the group or organization and formally introduced to the council for review, and that council members should formally disclose their roles in community organizations and recuse themselves from discussing or voting on matters pertaining to their respective organizations.