ehics and conflict of interest marijuana provisioning center conflict

Asked April 16, 2019, 10:28 PM EDT

HI:
I have a township board member that is voting, approving, denying telling me to stop asking question during public comments.
The township was allowing 2 provisioning centers. 1st was taken in May 2018, 2nd June 2018. Then the board members family, a prominent business in the township, wanted a license so the board accepted there application at another board members house on the 4th of July and created a 3rd spot saying that there was confusion between when the 2nd and 3rd applications were turned in. I am selling my business and signed an agreement in January 2019 on condition of getting a provisioning center spot in the township. In January at the board meeting we asked for a 4th spot and was told no. We had read the ordinance and discussed the ordinance with the Clerk. We asked him if all applicants had met the 30 day rule. We had to explain to him the rule.
Ordinance says "applicant fills out application pays the 5 k fee to receive conditional authorization.
Within 30 days from conditional authorization from the township the applicant must submit proof to the clerk that the applicant has applied for prequalification from the State for a state operating license or has submitted a full application for such license. If the applicant fails to submit such proof, then such conditional authorization shall be cancelled by the clerk.
Clerk said no the 2nd applicant had not. We dont think 1st applicant did either. At the January board meeting we asked the board to create a 4th position and was told NO. At this time we pointed out the 30 day rule in the ordinance and that app 2 did not turn in the required papers. The board had no idea about this rule in there ordinance either. Again we had to explain it to the board.
The board told my buyer to fill out application pay the 5 k fee so he is in spot 4 in case one of the other 3 didn't get a license. My buyer already has a license approved by the State to use.
At the beginning of the February meeting the board gave back my buyers application fee, but check was made out to my wife, land owner on application. (ordinance says: "Any applicant waiting for future conditional authorization may withdraw their submission by written notice to the Clerk at any time and recieve refund of the initial annual fee's submitted".) My buyer did not request the money back.
At this meeting the board said they were going to give the 3 applicant time to turn in any missing papers. Again this is 8 months after the applications were accepted by the township and my buyers application was accepted. When asked how long they would be given the board would not respond.
Seeing the check was made out to my wife buyer had to go back to the township the next day for a corrected check. He talked to the township treasure which informed him that the 3rd applicants application was filled out incorrectly. (this is the board members families application).
At the March meeting I asked again how long the applicant would be given and for the exact dates the application were originally accepted and why my buyers 5 k was returned and read that part of the ordinance to them. The board just said they felt that because they didnt know the 30 day rule was in the ordinance that they was giving the 3 applicant time to turn in missing papers and to fix any mistakes on there applications. So now they had added mistakes can be fixed. They also said that they were going to make some changes and ammendments to the current ordinance and vote on it at the April meeting.
After the March township meeting the board member in question approached me and told me to stop asking questions, that they didn't need to go round and round answering questions. On my way out of the meeting I was stopped by another board member and was told that the 5 k being returned was none of my business. I told him my wifes name was on the application which made it my business and he walked away.
At the April meeting the board said they were not ready to vote and it would be put off til the May meeting. They also stopped everyone in position and will not allow them to turn in licenses that are being approved. So far 7 licenses have been approved by the state.

To me there are 3 board members involved in this Corruption, Ethics and conflict of interest.
Member that accepted the application at his house, The family member on the board and member that told me its none of my business.
I am seeking legal advice / possible representation in this matter.

Van Buren County Michigan ethics good governance

1 Response

Good Morning. I will address your various questions/issues as they appear chronologically in your inquiry above.
1) To address your first issue: You were told not to ask questions during the public comment period: You can ask questions during a comment period, but the Board doesn't have to respond to you. 'Public comment' periods are for just that: comment. The Board does not answer questions or participate in a discussion during the public comment period. Yes, you will see a discussion during comment periods sometimes, but this is not appropriate.
2) A Board member accepted an application from a family member at their own home: First, if there is a conflict of interest, the Township Board By-Laws will describe how the conflict can be addressed. Secondly, there should be by-laws or instructions to follow on who can receive an application and where. Those instructions should be followed or there could be an appearance of impropriety for that Board member.
3)If I am following your story correctly, you are describing discrepancies on how the Board is handling various applications- that perhaps they are not handling each application equally and that they are perhaps acting in violation of their 30-day rule for completed applications. From what you state above, you also feel as if you are not being treated equally under the law. This can only be answered by an attorney.
From the information you have given me, there could be a conflict of interest here- but true 'conflict of interest' occurs when a Board member has a direct financial interest in the project. This would have to be proven. Board by-laws should be followed when it comes to addressing conflicts of interest. It is also important for the Board to strictly follow their ordinance and to understand the ordinance. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact an attorney. MSU Extension is unable to provide legal advice. Thanks again for your inquiry.