Conflict of Interest

Asked March 2, 2015, 2:24 PM EST

The property to the north of us was purchased in March of 2014. They asked our township ZBA to consider a variance. Our neighbors and we attended the meeting and made our points for and against the request. The first variance request was denied. Two months later, they applied for another variance placing the building in the same place under a different statute, but this time they had the township building inspector represent them. He spoke for them the entire meeting. The ZBA gave him free rein as if he had some special right to speak in his role as "representative." He introduced a different statute and redefined a term that the ZBA adopted. Eventually, they granted the variance unanimously which puts the building in the same place as the first meeting. Also, our neighbors are in the middle of construction under the eye of the building inspector. Isn't it a conflict of interest for MY building inspector to represent one township citizen over another?

Bay County Michigan

2 Responses

An employee of a local government should never represent an applicant outside of the local government. Staff should never represent one citizens concerns over another. While a building inspector is not supervisory to a board of appeals he/she can have an appearance of authority as a representative of the local government and lead to a deviation from procedures. This change in procedures would be a violation of equal protection.

I am unclear under what statute would be applicable other than the local zoning ordinance and how a term could be redefined during a variance hearing. The ordinance has specific guidelines regarding the granting of a variance. The board of appeals should have bylaws regarding who and how long an applicant can speak regarding the request.

Thank you for such a precise answer. I left out a lot of details. Days before the second meeting, I gave court cases and an objection letter to all ZBA members. They were not brought up in the meeting by the ZBA. This is when we saw our building inspector for the first time. He attacked us. No exaggeration. I have the recording.

We are awaiting a circuit court decision. If we get shot down there, we are going to the State Appeals.