Today we read that Mollie Cardamone also is/was/will be on the Pineapple Square payroll. The newspaper article says:
Cardamone, who served on the City Commission from 1993 to 2001, now runs a consulting business. She said this week that she simply gave Simon political advice as he embarked on what some have called an unprecedented neighborhood lobby.
"Am I working for him? No," she said. "Am I going to charge him for a couple of hours? Yeah."
Cardamone is one of several prominent people who spoke in favor of the project but didn't reveal their connections to Simon -- including Drayton Saunders, whose real estate firm plans to sell units in Pineapple Square, and Ernie Ritz, a contractor also working on the project.
Mayor Mary Anne Servian doesn't think public disclosure was necessary for Cardamone or the others. Servian already knew about their affiliations to the project.
A previous article had indicated that Ernie Ritz and Drayton Saunders had not revealed that they too had a financial interest in connection to Pineapple Square.
The issue here is one of accountability. While one or more commissioners may have known that these people had a financial connection to the project, the general public did not know, nor, it turned out, did all the commissioners. Instead, these persons represented themselves as interested citizens (which they are), but failed to also indicate their financial interests.
Mayor Servian is quoted in the article as saying: "I wouldn't call Mollie a lobbyist by any stretch of the imagination."
According to the dictionary, a lobbyist is one who "tries to influence the thinking of legislators or other public officials for or against a specific cause: lobbying for stronger environmental safeguards." A paid lobbyist is one who tries to influence legislators and gets paid by a third party.
Being accountable is "an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account (a statement of reasons, causes, or motives) for one’s actions."
Commissioner Shelin hosted several public workshops last year focusing on the topic of accountability of public officials. Many citizens participated and gave their views on improving accountability.
Mollie Cardamone did, after the fact, acknowledge her financial relationship with Pineapple Square and apologized for not disclosing her "prior involvement" after the fact.
It is our understanding she is also consultant for another major area project, the proposed Wal-Mart on 301. We have no quarrel with this relationship, but would urge that when testifying on behalf of that company, she will clarify she is doing so as a consultant, not only as a former mayor and commissioner.
Citizens and commissioners deserve to know when persons testifying before the commission have financial interests in a project. No matter how upright or honest the lobbyist or consultant, or the commissioners, when this is not done, it casts doubt upon the testimony and the process.
Our government processes depend upon openness and honesty.
When questions about accountability are brushed aside, the citizens become cynical. It is time for some very serious discussion of a variety of accountability issues. Let that discussion begin.