The Royal Oak City Commission approved an independent investigation to determine whether the actions of one its members constitute a conflict interest or an ethics violation at a special meeting at Friday evening.
Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Capello, who requested the special meeting along with Commissioner Peggy Goodwin, described receiving an anonymous letter on Aug. 14 that alleged inappropriate actions on the part of Commissioner Jim Rasor with regards to an Arts, Beats & Eats (ABE) parking station operation. Capello, who found the letter unsettling, followed up with City Manager Don Johnson who established Rasor had applied for an ABE parking station license for the former Fresard property.
The Main Street property was recently purchased by 400 Main, LLC. The new owners are in the early stages of on the site, which would need approval from the Planning Commission and City Commission. Rasor sits on both panels.
Capello requested “an independent, third party, subject-matter-expert attorney be retained” to investigate the matter and determine whether a conflict of interest exists and/or if any laws or ordinances were violated. When asked, City Attorney Dave Gillam estimated the cost of such a probe to be in the neighborhood of $5,000.
“I understand that we have a very specialized area of the law involved, and we also need to preserve the rights of the individual, who must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise,” she said.
The decision to appoint an investigator received unanimous support from commissioners, including Rasor. Keeping his remarks brief, the embattled commissioner said he was confident that he has complied with all ethics ordinances and welcomes the “investigation to render the same.”
“I would ask all bloggers and anonymous posters to reserve all judgment until the facts are all on the table,” Rasor said.
Public comment at the special meeting was minimal. Royal Oak resident Ron Wolf, who accused Rasor of "trying to ride two horses at the same time,” expressed disappointment the commission chamber wasn’t packed. Only five people voiced concern.
“We have an ethical issue,” said Rick Karlowski of Royal Oak. When a business that is still in the planning stages of a hotel development approaches a commissioner with a sidebar business it “reeks of Wayne County-ism,” he said.
After the meeting was adjourned, Rasor reiterated that he has disclosed everything that was required of him under the ethics ordinance and that he had no “inside information.”
“It’s a private business deal, which benefits charity,” Rasor said. The commissioner has stated he planned to donate 15 percent of any revenue earned by the parking operation to the ROOTS foundation.