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Will there be a conflict of interest?

FINGER LAKES—Could signing a gas drilling lease and being on a town or village board create a conflict of interest?
With the possibility of wastewater from gas drilling being dumped in a well in Pulteney, Barrington planning board chairperson Sue Lange wondered about the answer to that question.  She said if an issue ever arose concerning a board and a gas company, there could be a conflict of interest if board members have signed leases. So she asked Shawna E. Bonshak, Yates County planner, and Peter Landre, Yates Cornell Cooperative Extension director.
“This question is being hashed out in many e-mail circles,” said Bonshak.
“It could be an issue with all towns,” said Lange, adding it could pertain to gas and windmill leases, as well as owning stock.
What Bonshak found to answer that question is to have appoint alternate board members when there is a “clear conflict of interest.  One answer to avoiding issues with quorum and enough voting members would be to have alternates ready to serve on the boards. Also, when a member of a board recuses him or herself, it does not change the number of votes necessary for a motion to carry.”
Bonshak added most boards in the area have by-laws that clearly state the procedure when there is a conflict of interest, usually in the ethics clause.  She added that a board member should recuse themselves before an application is brought before them.
“Many of our municipalities have not been faced with this issue yet, therefore I am sure potential conflicts related to gas leasing have not been discussed,” said Bonshak.
“I think all towns around the lake should be ready before this comes up,” added Lange.  She called it a complex issue, no matter what way a board member votes, as long as they have a lease.  Lange said Pulteney is going to have an issue.

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