Conflicts of interest occur, but actually are rare in government. Law and procedures block them effectively. In the private sector, not so much.
I’ll offer one of my own this morning as an example and analyze a non-conflict situation. The latter is this: no conflict of interest will result because Brad Bonkowski is a city supervisor and Mallory Wilson, his step-daughter by propinquity but otherwise not, now serves on the city’s Board of Equalization.
This is no defense of Bonkowski. It will, however, turn into one regarding voluntary service, without compensation, by the young daughter of his business and life partner, Andie Wilson.
But first my own conflict. My wife, Jean Barrette, is on the Brewery Arts Center (BAC) board. We’re paid-up members there.
So a column item touting a cultural organization in which I’m interested — though it doesn’t line my pockets more — is a mild journalistic conflict of interest. But I can’t resist, so I just provided full disclosure.
My opinion: the BAC is BACK. Evidence? The best party and cultural event I’ve attended in eight years residing in Carson City was the Winter Wine, Spirits & All That Jazz gala last weekend at the BAC. Kudos to Kyle Horvath and Gina Hill, the youthful leadership handling things at the BAC. If you missed the fundraiser/party, too bad; it was worth twice the price.
Now on to the supposed potential for a conflict because Supervisor Lori Bagwell nominated Mallory Wilson to serve on the Board of Equalization, which the Board of Supervisors — minus Bonkowski, who recused himself — approved as an appointment 4-0. Fancy that; not a dissenting vote. Paranoia about it is sillier than a tempest in a tea pot or a temper tantrum at a tea party.
Realtor Bonkowski hasn’t represented property owners before the equalization board. Assessor Dave Dawley said if, however, the supervisor in future did that, Wilson would recuse herself. And there are multiple government layers to protect property taxpayers who appeal assessments: the board, the state, and finally in court. Young Wilson’s role is integral but minimal.
So let’s move on to another spurious charge: her inexperience. Inexperience is what we geezers cite to grab or retain control. So when Mallory Wilson’s inexperience and judgement were savaged in one quarter and questioned in testimony to the mayor and supervisors, it was a cheap shot rather than a real message about a true need for an experienced hand at equalization. Bottom line: it was sanctimonious hoakum.
By the way, Bagwell formerly served on the equalization board; she knows what’s needed. And Supervisor Jim Shirk, to his credit, deferred to her knowledge, as did Mayor Robert Crowell and Supervisor Karen Abowd.
Carson City needs to share the reins with younger people before all our 20-to-40 crowd flees to the Renos or San Franciscos. There, youth is wanted and finds room to grow minus snarky, small city political or business gamesmanship among us graybeards. Once again I can only turn to H.L. Mencken, 20th century columnist, to reinforce my point: “The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”
John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at email@example.com.