Recently, as most folks in Stillwater are aware, Tuckertown neighbors went up against Kerns Construction Co., at the City Commission meeting. This was with regard to Kerns’ desire to rezone a lot from residential to commercial use.

Many people descended on City Hall that evening from Tuckertown and other neighborhoods. It was a cross-section of good, regular people. Mayor McMillian quickly asserted his authority. He announced that people would be allowed to speak for only five minutes each and that there would be no rebuttal period after action by the commission. A number of people spoke rather eloquently, pointing out numerous reasons why the neighbors’ legitimate needs should be honored.

Approximately a half dozen people asserted directly to the mayor he had a conflict of interest and should refrain from voting. He brazenly looked at each without any body language indicating any desire to compromise. Subsequently, he and three other commissioners voted against the people (hats off to Hank Moore for voting with the people), after McMillian and Mr. Dugger spent much time verbalizing self-serving rationalizations. At least Mr. Williams did not bore us with that.

There was also the charade of a compromise win-win scenario. It was more rationalizing. My proof of this: the neighbors were never asked what they thought about the so-called compromise. Everything McMillian and company did was “perfectly legal” (as far as we know). It was unethical.

The legal definition of conflict of interest is very restricted. Surprise, surprise — the law is designed so that the wealthy class can easily “interact” with its lackeys in government. However, if a half dozen townspeople say you have a conflict of interest, you certainly have the appearance of a conflict of interest. By “appearance,” I mean that the mayor “appeared” to these folks to have a conflict of interest.

Authorities on modern good governance frown upon public servants having the appearance of a conflict of interest. This was explained to me in no uncertain terms when I was a federal civil servant. Thus, the city has an ethics problem. It turns out Stillwater does not have an ethical code of conduct for public servants. We need one.

It’s clear that McMillian and company will subvert democracy at every turn if it helps the mayor’s rich friends.

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