Kelly Miller’s conflict of interest

Kelly Miller was appointed to the Asheville City Council following an undemocratic process. In just a few weeks he skidded to the edge of political ethics.

In January, during the otherwise hum-drum second session of the annual Council retreat, the question of diverting part of Asheville’s hotel tax to repair of the Civic Center came up. Current law mandates that 3/4 of the hotel tax go to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, the other 1/4 goes to projects that enhance Asheville’s appeal to tourists. (Among other things, that money was used to fund the new Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center). Miller argued that the money should not be diverted. He is Executive Director of the Chamber and at least some of his salary and much of his budget is derived from the hotel tax money.

There couldn’t be a clearer appearance of conflict of interest, though, by some lights he hasn’t actually violated any law.

Nor is this the first time Miller has skated near that hole in the ice. At a formal session a couple of weeks ago he stood up from his seat on the Council and took the podium to deliver a pitch from the Chamber to the Council. He then resumed his seat to continue with deliberations.

Henceforth I would hope that Miller will recuse himself from any votes involving Chamber business.
***
Other business at the Saturday session chiefly involved committee appointments and Council procedures. There were a few heated exchanges sparked by Carl Mumpower, but nothing of particular note. Toward the end of the meeting the Council went into closed session to discuss the ongoing Water Authority law suit. Four reporters, a camera man and myself waited for an hour on the premise that they would go back into open session and offer some public information about the water fight. But when we were allowed back in the room, the meeting quickly adjourned.
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Read the Asheville Citizen-Times coverage of Miller’s action here.

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