“A public officer must disclose the intention of engaging in an act that may create a conflict between public duty and private interest.” Exhibit A
This Cascade County Code of Ethics trust was violated at the 4 December 2007 Urquhart rezoning hearing for HGS. The county planning board voted 5-4 to recommend approval of the application to allow industrial zoning allowing Southern Montana Electric (SME) to construct a coal-fired power plant.
Mr. Bill Weber, President of First Interstate Bank, was one of five board members to vote for rezoning.
Prior to the hearing, he provided a letter (Exhibit B) to the board stating his bank’s depository relationship with SME was not a conflict of interest and he read the letter into the hearing record (Exhibit C, page 9, line 7) and before the public.
However, as Paul Harvey says, “Now for the rest of the story.”
Mr. Weber should have recused himself from voting at the hearing (as other board members had done on other votes where a conflict of interest was possible) based on the following facts he did not disclose:
1. $1.5 Million Dollar First Interstate Bank Loan to the City of Great Falls/SME. Mr. Weber failed to disclose his bank’s $1.5 million dollar loan (Exhibit D) to the City of Great Falls, a member of SME, for development costs (engineering, permits, procurement) as part of the city’s membership obligations to SME’s Highwood Generating Station (HGS) proposal. This loan was made on 16 December 2005 as a General Fund Obligation Debt as noted in the city staff report (Exhibit E), for a period of twenty years. Mr. Weber’s bank stands to directly benefit from the rezoning by assuring the City of Great Falls the ability to repay the loan based on the financial benefits of the city’s membership with SME and HGS becoming operational.
2. First Interstate Bank’s Electric City Power (ECP) Customer Status. Mr. Weber also failed to inform the public that his bank is a pilot program customer of ECP (Exhibit F). ECP is the electrical utility arm of the City of Great Falls, a member of SME. The bank stood to gain financially from a favorable rezoning decision that would facilitate another step toward the construction of the HGS and subsidized ECP power costs to First Interstate Bank.
Contact the county commissioners to demand a new rezoning vote be conducted properly to restore the integrity of Cascade County government.