The Bangor Daily News Jan. 9 article, “Bangor councilor facing ethics probe has history of conflicts,” by reporter Alex Acquisto, states that I have a history of conflicts during my time as a Bangor city councilor.
The article cites two specific examples of what are referred to as failures to disclose the full extent of my business dealings while serving on the Bangor City Council. I did not disclose my interest or involvement regarding these two examples as they did not rise to a level necessary to do so.
Having an idea is not conflict. Volunteering for a community-based organization is not a conflict. Doing business in the community in which you live and serve should not be considered an ethical violation.
Active and engaged businesses are a valuable and necessary component for a community to not only survive but grow and prosper.
Businesses in Bangor provide more than half the city’s annual tax revenue. Businesses in Bangor provide many of the direct financial donations crucial to the continual missions of regional nonprofits, institutions and arts organizations in the community.
The City Council cannot, for the sake of avoiding tough conversations, let it stop there. If we only allow businesses to contribute financially and don’t allow their owners, leaders and employees to utilize their skills and expertise in civic engagements, then we’re missing a crucial component to our region’s potential future success.
I believe we need even more business owners, leaders and employees engaged in civic involvement, including state and municipal government.
The national political scene has become a poisoned battlefield. The world of public discourse has historically been one of compromise and respect. But it is quickly morphing into an arena of labels and accusations.
Unfortunately, it seems that polarization has now trickled down to the local level.
On Jan. 8, for the first time in a generation, the City Council voted 7-2 to send an issue forward for an ethics board review. The council did so even though it has the power and authority to rule on this matter. And as elected officials, accountable to the people, it is entirely appropriate that they exercise this authority.
The issue at hand is fairly simple. During fiscal year 2018 budget meetings, a question was raised whether my company, Sutherland Weston, had a current financial relationship with the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau. I responded in good faith that I did not believe there was.
I later learned I was wrong.
Although I raised a different point regarding the bureau and a potential conflict, it is my responsibility to share the mistake. Therefore, I voluntarily reported the mistake to the council. I was not asked nor pressured to do so. The language of the order now being sent to ethics board repeats those facts in writing.
During the discussion prior to the vote on Jan. 8, I asked my fellow councilors to provide clarity as to the specific issue the ethics board would be charged in reviewing, because the facts are clear and not disputed by any party. Those facts also did not affect any action taken by the council. But after more than 90 minutes of deliberation, no clear answer was given.
This past week, there has a been a lot said and shared publicly about my company’s and my own engagement in the community. I do take exception to being called into question for being an actively involved business owner.
I am involved and my business is involved in the community. I’m proud of that. As the circles of business and community involvement intersect, sharing my ideas, opinions and experience shouldn’t be considered a negative.
I believe it’s important for this council and this community to measure actions based on intent and common sense, not for the sake of a political agenda or scoring points for future political aspirations.
Helping to find, build and nurture connections in a community is how things get done and progress is achieved. From fighting the damage of drugs to building a world-class arena to nurturing the next big idea, I want to contribute to that sense of collaboration in my hometown, which is why I serve.
The more time and energy we as councilors spend on questioning one another’s integrity, such as this past week, the less we spend on economic development, sound financial management and public prosperity for our city.
Cary Weston is a Bangor city councilor and an owner of Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications.
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