Here's another twist in the Creekside Golf Course water rate reduction scandal: City Councilor Warren Bednarz, a member of the City of Salem Water-Wastewater Task Force, repeatedly voted to give himself a 30% reduction on his irrigation bill.
Now, if you're thinking, Aren't elected officials supposed to recuse themselves from votes that would give them a private financial benefit?, congratulations. That's the correct thought.
But someone who listened to recordings of the Water-Wastewater Task Force meetings has learned that not once, but twice, Bednarz admitted that he owned commercial irrigated property which would benefit from the 30% rate reduction he voted "Yes" on.
At the July 14 meeting, Councilor Bednarz admitted that he had a conflict of interest:
First off, before the meeting began I mentioned that I have two meters that are “irrigation only” so I am least a little privy to the five months, four months, three months a year, turn it off.
Yet later in that meeting Bednarz voted for a recommendation that would reduce the water rate for all irrigators by about 30%. Amazingly, apparently no one else on the Task Force thought it was unseemly for Councilor Bednarz to be voting for a water rate reduction that would personally benefit him.
Well, more than unseemly, since state law requires that a public official declare a conflict of interest on an issue that would give the official a "private pecuniary [monetary] benefit." Then the official isn't supposed to vote on that issue.
But Bednarz didn't declare a conflict of interest, and he did vote to recommend the 30% irrigator rate reduction.
At the Task Force's next meeting on July 28, Bednarz again spoke about how he is one of 670 irrigators, as is the Creekside Golf Club. Referring to Peter Fernandez, the City of Salem Public Works Director, Bednarz said:
Peter, I am two of those 670 meters. I have two of them. I’m not looking for a rate reduction. There’s no reason. Two or three hundred a month isn’t going to kill me. So I still think that a classification based on something is a way that we can get around this policy-wise.
Once again, Bednarz didn't declare a conflict of interest. This time he voted against the irrigator rate reduction.
A few weeks later, though, on August 11, my source tells me that Councilor Bednarz seemingly voted with all of the other members of the Task Force (except Councilor Brad Nanke, who voted "no") to support the 30% rate reduction for irrigators. This is what the audiotape of the August 11 shows; no written minutes of the meeting are available yet.
Earlier this year Bednarz was hit with two ethics complaints for the very same thing: failing to declare a conflict of interest on issues that would benefit members of his family. So it appears that Councilor Bednarz still feels that he is above the law in this regard.
Fortunately for the citizens of Salem, last May Bednarz was soundly defeated by challenger Sally Cook in his City Council re-election bid.
Here's my previous posts about the sleazy Creekside Golf Course goings-on: