ACCOMPLISHMENTS 2018 - 2019

The following is a list of projects I initiated during my 18 months on the Village Council. Given my position "in the minority" the following accomplishments are among those of which I am most proud. There was fierce opposition to my appointment among the Council 'majority'. Knowing this, I worked hard to defeat the negativity by continuously demonstrating my commitment to Village business, the collaborative process, transparency and citizen interests. In time, my sincere, commitment to producing good Village work convinced fellow members of the Council to work with me, to achieve good things for the community. I could not have done it without support from Marvin citizens and friends!

Thank you! Together, we made progress!

Policy for Initiating Land Development

 

A policy that ensures prospective applicants pursue development projects through approved, Village Hall processes and not by lobbying the Mayor and/or members of the Council, nor members of an advisory board, through private meetings beyond public view.

Why Was This Necessary? One example, below, helps illustrate why this policy became necessary:

Violations of Statutory Judicial Process and Land Use Permitting Laws 

Despite a Village policy which prevents it, Mayor Pollino met with a developer interested in developing a private school in the R-Marvin District. Not only does it seem he attended the open house alone, evidence strongly suggests he attended a one-on-one meeting with the representative.

 

Policies against meeting with prospective applicants exist for a reason. In this case, Mayor Pollino apparently didn't know and/or didn't care to investigate first. Per the Code of Ordinances, private schools are permitted in the R-Marvin residential district, only after a quasi-judicial proceeding and the issuance of a Conditional Use Permit. Per this process, the Council acts like, and must abide by, strict judicial codes of conduct. All ex-parte communication with a prospective applicant are prohibited and all information must be made available to all parties having an interest in the development (the applicant, adjacent residents, all council members, attorneys, etc.) 

 

Instead, Mayor Pollino met with the prospective applicants and his associates on two separate occasions. And, in one public record, the prospective applicant(s) 'thank Mayor Pollino for his support'. This is out of bounds, legally, and could have gotten the Village in a lot of trouble. The applicant ended up withdrawing their application.  

The Policy for Initiating Development is meant to ensure public officials do not take it upon themselves to pursue development projects; particularly when they are unacquainted with the legal ramifications of doing so, on their own. Instead, the policy requires all development initiatives proceed through proper staff channels and, if desired, applicants can meet with the Council in open, transparent public meetings, to obtain their general feedback, prior to obtaining a legally-binding Council decision.

Statement of Economic Interest for Board Members

A policy and disclosure form, which must be updated annually, requiring all Village Council members and advisory board members to provide substantive economic information to increase transparency, perpetuate trust and prevent private business interests from driving Village development and political agendas.

Why Was This Necessary? One example, below, helps illustrate why this policy became necessary:

Seeking Public Office to Influence Decisions from Which One Might Benefit 

Despite Village Code of Ethics and Planning Board Rules of Procedure, Mr. Lavelle, Planning Board member, sought to influence public policy and project expenditures on a Village Center 'master plan" initiative in which he intended to invest and/or develop (according to his disclosure). Though he should be commended for disclosing this fact, Mr. Lavelle was required, by the Rules of Procedure, to refrain from influencing any decisions or recommendations with regard to this topic. Instead of honorably recusing himself from participation, Mr. Lavelle insisted on influencing the decision and berating Council members who would not support an initiative from which, it appears, he stood to reap financial gains in the future. 

 

Instead of supporting Village policy and procedure, Mayor Pollino grew enraged at the Council for politely removing Mr. Lavelle from the Planning Board. Upon re-election to office, in 2017, and, on their very first night established or re-established in public office, Mayor Pollino, Kim Vandenberg and Nick Dispenziere re-instated Mr. Lavelle. He continues to sit on the Planning Board.  And, according to those present, Mr. Jones, current Planning Board Chairperson, used to work for Mr. Lavelle and is/was also a commercial retail developer. 

 

The Village of Marvin has always been able to depend on a citizen's ability to self-regulate their conduct and behavior in such instances. When it was apparent this was no longer the case, I analyzed our active conflict of interest forms, investigated possible amendments, devised a policy strategy for integrating a new disclosure form in our processes, and requested the Council consider amendments. This initiative was adopted in August.  Minor edits are being made to the form and a second version of the form is being instituted for employee disclosures.

Employee Statement of Interest for Employees

A policy and disclosure form, which must be updated annually, requiring all Village staff to provide substantive information about business associations, in order to increase transparency, perpetuate trust and prevent private business interests from driving Village business.

Why Was This Necessary? One example, below, helps illustrate why this policy became necessary:

Seeking Public Office to Influence Decisions from Which One Might Benefit 

While serving as Chairwoman of the Planning Board, ​our Village Planner had worked with, and represented, an application which proposed amendments to our Land Development Codes. One of our planning board members protested the initiative; stating the applicant and the planner were not providing transparent information. The Planner reacted by requesting I take measures to excuse the Planning Board member from participating in the meeting. The Planning Board member voluntarily recused himself.  The situation was uncomfortable and it was clear there was more to the situation than was being presented but, to maintain decorum, we proceeded with review of the application and the text amendment without further insight to explain the tension. 

Only after the Planning Board finished deliberating on the text amendment, and provided their recommendation, was the truth revealed.  The Planner had previously been employed by the applicant presenting the development plan and text amendment to the Marvin's Code. Although this may not have been a breach of any particular policy, I believe the information should have been disclosed to the Planning Board.  The Planning Board member that protested, later divulged there was a sympathetic relationship between the Planner, and her former employee / colleague.  He felt her her judgment and review of the project was compromised. At the very least, the Planning Board and the Council should have been provided with the information.  The Employee Statement of Interest disclosure form, and new additions to the Personnel Policy, require that staff members provide full disclosure to the council and advisory board, where their objectivity may be compromised; or where there might be a perception of impropriety. Additionally, it ensures full transparency and promotes trust between government officials and citizens.

Purchase & Procurement Policy

A policy requiring expenditures and service contracts be procured through traceable, responsible, recorded processes; in order to increase accountability, improve transparency, and prohibit unregulated dispensation of public contracts and funds to parties with associations to public officials, board members or Village staff.

Why Was This Necessary? One example, below, helps illustrate why this became necessary:

A Quest to Garner Public Funding for a Private or Semi-Private Development Venture 

After public records revealed the Mayor, Mr. Lavelle and non-resident, Mr. Sawicki, were interviewing and seeking to hire contractors for a public project, or a semi-public project, from which they hoped to financially benefit, it was clear proper regulation was needed. North Carolina laws require public projects and prospective contracts be discussed and deliberated in open meetings, among governing board members.  Individual council members and advisory board members are not permitted to seek out contract workers without a public, Council decision  Additionally, projects over $100,000 are required to abide by legal bidding processes and cannot be awarded to contractors simply because an advisory board member and/or the Mayor and/or one of their associates "like the product or service" being offered.  Incidentally, a contract was drafted, in the Village of Marvin's name, for approximately $160,000 dollars.  Pre-selecting prospective service providers, through backdoor negotiations, outside of public meetings, without following lawful open bidding required by NC law, can put the Village of Marvin in compromised legal position. In the past, Marvin Village staff, officials and attorneys have always abided by state guidelines or laws, legal even without a specific Marvin policy.  The realization that the Mayor and Mr. Lavelle appeared to be "pre-selecting contractors" outside of open bidding requirements inspired me to draft a Purchase and Procurement Policy and work to have it adopted. Thankfully, we succeeded!  I hope the policy will dissuade officials and volunteers from misusing their public offices and/or their positions on Marvin boards in the future. 

Other Completed Initiatives

Championed the restoration of the following:

~ Council Meeting Minutes Online

~ Council Meeting Audio Recordings Online

~ Council Meeting Documents Online

~ Planning Board Meeting Minutes Online

Championed and motivated the following:

~ Public Distribution of Council Agenda & Complete Meeting Packet

~ Public Distribution of Planning Board Agenda & Complete Meeting Packet

~ Public Distribution of PR&G Board Agenda & Complete Meeting Packet

Initiated and Completed the following:

~ Installation of a Statement of Economic Interest Disclosure Form & Policy

~ Installation of an Employee Statement of Interest Disclosure Form & Policy

~ Installation of Code of Ethics Updates to include disclosures

~ Installation of Personnel Policy Updates for ethics and disclosures

Initiated and Completed: the following:

~ Purchasing and Procurement Policy

~ Open, Transparent Contract Bidding Policy

~ Initiating Development Policy

~ Index of Adopted Codes Online 

~ Blind, Objective Road Resurfacing Selection Process

~ Employee Position Sharing for High-Income Earning Full-time Staff

~ Referendum to Increase Council Representation

Updated and Provided Guidance with regard to the following:

~ Conditional District Application and Processing

~ Conditional District Flowchart and Citizen Guidance

Additional updates coming soon... 

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I freely endorse the impeccable legal minds and compassionate 

advocacy received at the law firm of Weaver, Bennett & Bland

© 2019 Mary4Marvin 

Village of Marvin, Marvin

N.C. USA 28173