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When Recusal is the Right Thing

When Recusal is the Right Thing

In January, for the first time since becoming a councilman, I had to recuse myself from a vote at a town council meeting. It is Ethics 101, and it's the right thing to do.

There was an appeal of a Planning Board decision on a proposed development in the neighborhood that my family lives in. I don't have anything to do with the developer, of course, and I don't have any financial interest in the project.

However, when you are elected to a board like a town council or even a commissioner's seat, the first thing the state of North Carolina requires you to do is to attend a UNC School of Government course. At that course, which is held over parts of three days, you spend one full day just talking about ethics. You are presented with a number of different scenarios, but essentially the only time that you are excused from voting on an issue is if you might, yourself, be financially impacted (either positively or negatively) by your vote. If the development went in and later on my home value went up or down, one could conceivably argue that I had done something improper.

To be on the safe side, and to avoid any appearance of impropriety, I asked to be recused and left the room while the matter was being discussed. Ultimately, the other town council members upheld the Planning Board's decision and denied the appeal.

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