Alder Mark Clear’s Ethics Challenges

Posted October 12th, 2017 @ 7:46 AM by

So, rumor has it, Mark Clear owns stock in Exact Sciences and recently tripled his investment, and yet he sponsored the resolution to give them $2.5M, voted on it at the city council meeting and failed to disclose this on his statement of interest forms or at the council meeting and he didn’t disqualify himself from voting. Seriously? Yes, seriously. He’s shown himself to be ethically challenged in the past, so this is familiar territory for him. And again. And again. He’s clearly familiar with the ethics law.

DISCLOSURE ON STATEMENT OF INTEREST FORM
So, anyways, I asked for his Statement of Interest form. But nothing was disclosed. Interesting.

Madison General Ordinance states that he would have to disclose the following:

3.35(9)(g)3.
The identity of every organization of which she or he or any adult member of her or his immediate family is an officer or director and the identity of every organization of which she or he or any member of her or his immediate family owns or controls, directly or indirectly, severally or in the aggregate, at least two percent (2%) of the outstanding equity; provided, however, that membership only in an organization need not be disclosed and that no identification need be made of any organization which is organized and operated primarily to influence voting at an election including support for or opposition to an individual’s present or future candidacy or to a present or future referendum.

Ok, maybe he doesn’t own 2% of the stock, but how would we ever know? As I thought about it more, that seems like a nutty distinction. A council member could own stock in a company and make millions and still not own 2% so they wouldn’t have to disclose it?

There’s also this:

3.35(9)(h)
In addition, all elected officials, candidates for local offices and employees who are required to file shall also disclose the identity of all stocks, bonds, debentures, other forms of debt obligations of any corporation or other business or entity collectively in excess of $8,000 held by her or him or her or his immediate family, except mutual funds, personal checking accounts, time deposit accounts, or other savings or retirement fund accounts held by any financial institution, the United States Government, any City- approved deferred compensation program, the Wisconsin Retirement Fund or any other organization maintaining such debt obligation as part of a public employee retirement fund.

Wonder where they got the $8,000 limit from? That seems odd. We still don’t know how much he owns, and I don’t know how we could find out.

DISCLOSURE AT COUNCIL
But he’d still have to disclose it at the council meeting right? The ordinances say the following:

MGO 3.35(5)(a)
(5) Standards of Conduct.
(a) 1. Use of Office or Position. No incumbent may use or attempt to use her or his position or office to obtain financial gain or anything of value or any advantage, privilege or treatment for the private benefit of herself or himself or her or his immediate family, or for an organization with which she or he is associated. This paragraph does not prohibit an incumbent from using the title or prestige of her or his office to obtain campaign contributions that are permitted and reported as required by Ch. 11, Wis. Stats.

and

3. Limitations on Actions. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph 4, no incumbent may:
a. Take any official action affecting, directly or indirectly, a matter in which she or he, a member of her or his immediate family, or an organization with which she or he is associated has a financial or personal interest;
b. Use her or his office or position in a way that produces or assists in the production of a benefit, direct or indirect, for her or him, a member of her or his immediate family either separately or together, or an organization with which the incumbent or her or his immediate family member is associated.

4. Paragraph 3. does not prohibit an incumbent from taking any action concerning the lawful payment of salaries or employee benefits or reimbursement of actual and necessary expenses, or prohibit an incumbent from taking official action with respect to any proposal to create, modify, or repeal a City ordinance, resolution or matter benefiting the public.

My head hurts. I’ve read this ordinance many times, and it sounds like if he benefits financially or personally he can’t take any action, but then there’s this other section that says whether they have to disclose or disqualify:

3.35(5)(c)
(f) Disclosure and Disqualification.
1. An elected official who has or whose immediate family member has a financial or personal interest in any matter coming before the Common Council shall disclose on the records of the Common Council the nature and extent of such interest. This provision shall not apply if the elected official disqualifies herself or himself from participating in discussion of the matter and from voting on it. An elected official shall disqualify herself or himself from discussing and voting if the matter under consideration involves her or his immediate family member’s financial or personal interests to the extent that such interests conflict or appear to conflict with her or his official duties or would impair or reasonably be expected to impair her or his independence of judgment or actions.
2. Any other incumbent who has or whose immediate family member has a financial or personal interest in a matter coming before the Common Council or any board, committee, commission, sub-committee or ad hoc committee, and who participates in discussions with or gives an official opinion to such body, shall disclose on the records of such body the nature and extent of such interest. This provision shall not apply if the incumbent disqualifies herself or himself from participating in discussion of the matter and from voting on it.
3. In the event a member of a City board, committee or commission is required to disqualify herself or himself from participating or voting on a matter which comes for official action before the board, committee or commission of which she or he is a member and a member of the board, committee or commission requests the disqualified member to leave the room that member shall physically absent herself or himself from that portion of the meeting involving discussion, deliberations or votes related to that matter, and the minutes of the meeting shall reflect her or his absence.

For the record the definition of financial interest in MGO 3.35(2)(c) is different than the “associated” with definition for statement of interests.

“Economic interest” or “financial interest” means a business or cause in which a person or her or his immediate family member has a concern, responsibility, share, right or title in the ownership of property in a commercial or financial undertaking which relates to the source, production, distribution or use of the person’s or immediate family member’s income, wealth or goods, including debts, or which affects or is apt to affect the welfare or the material resources of the person or immediate family member.

So, he should have at least told us that he owns the shares. He should have at least disclosed it.

When Mo Cheeks was challenged, he disqualified himself and left the room.

Why is this important?
Madison’s Code of Ethics (MGO 3.35(1)) says:

The proper operation of democratic government requires that public officials and employees be independent, impartial, and responsible to the people; that government decisions and policy be made in the proper channels of the governmental structure; that public office not be used for personal gain; and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government. In recognition of these goals, there is hereby established a Code of Ethics for all City of Madison officials and employees. The purpose of this Code is to establish guidelines for ethical standards of conduct for all such officials and employees, to set forth those acts or actions that conflict with the best interests of the City and conflict with or are incompatible with the proper discharge of duties and required independence of judgment, and to direct disclosure by such officials and employees of private financial or personal interests in matters affecting the City. The provisions and purpose of this Code and such rules and regulations as may be established are hereby declared to be in the best interests of the City of Madison.

Who wants to file a complaint? Crap. One way or the other, it will probably end up being me as it seems no one else has stepped forward to do it. I don’t want to, but we can’t have alders who are making money off companies doing their bidding by sponsoring $2.5M sweetheart deals for them and not at least telling the public that they make money from that company. It would have been so easy to disclose this – as he apparently has in the past – otherwise, how would we know he owns the shares?

p.s. Rumor has it the mayor also owned stock in Exact Sciences, but he sold it.


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