The other media outlet in this town, an online service operated by one man, reported that the mayor, Mary Katherine Greenlaw, accepted an $1,800 campaign donation from a towing company. Recently, there’s been an effort to raise towing fees in the city and there were a lot of howls about the vote and the donation the mayor received.
Despite the article making a lot of noise, the mayor didn’t do anything wrong. The only blip on the radar is that the donation was recorded under an employee’s name of the company instead of the company, which was corrected. The donation wasn’t hid and it’s not illegal. It’s not even illegal for the mayor to vote on the issue, which will pass unanimously. The mayor is recusing herself from the vote, despite the city attorney saying she’s not required to.
It’s kind of a story about a non story. Politicians accept campaign donations. Politicians often vote on bills and measures that benefit their supporters. That is not a conflict of interest. If it was there’d be a purge of unemployed lobbyists in Washington. There would be a conflict if the mayor worked for the towing company, or had done business with them (which also wouldn’t be much of a conflict in a small town, because it’s almost impossible not to have done business with everyone here at some point).
The mayor is also a realtor. There will be votes on property taxes and zoning laws which will affect her business. The former mayor was a doctor and the mayor before him owns an antique store downtown. There were votes on health issues and efforts to bring more business downtown. Neither Mayors Tom Tomzak or Bill Beck recused themselves from a vote. Ever.
This is a small town. If you’re on city council, every vote is going to affect you or someone you know. That’s just the way it is. You can see it being improper and snub your nose at it, and that’s fine…but there’s nothing fishy about it.
Now if we catch a city politician accepting a briefcase full of cash in the city’s parking garage, then we’ll have a real story.