Grand County attorney Andrew Fitzgerald is now looking into an allegation that Grand County councilman Lynn Jackson has a conflict of interest while serving on the county council’s public lands subcommittee. The complaint was initiated by Moab resident Bill Love, who said Jackson’s work as a consultant for a potash mining company is a conflict.
“Currently we are attempting to ascertain the correct facts so that we can apply the law and come up with an analysis regarding any potential conflict,” Fitzgerald said. “It is difficult to analyze the conflict issues without a clear fact pattern; however, Mr. Love has provided enough information to begin our inquiry.”
Jackson and councilmen Rory Paxman and Jim Nyland were appointed to the subcommittee during the regularly scheduled county council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Love said that Jackson did not reveal his association with a Fortner Consulting, which was hired by American Potash to assist in obtaining a permit for exploration drilling on federal land in Grand County, before accepting a position on the subcommittee.
Love was not in attendance at the Tuesday, Nov. 19 meeting.
Jackson said that he has met state and county code by declaring his private consulting business on Oct. 19, 2012 through his candidate financial disclosure and conflict of interest statement. He said the statement is on file with the county clerk.
“In regard to Mr. Love’s unsubstantiated and libelous accusations I have again reviewed both state and county codes to assure my work as a consultant is not in violation of the law,” Jackson said.
Jackson said that he has never spoken to the council or any department of Grand County on behalf or Fortner Consulting or American Potash, nor has there been any matters under consideration for American Potash before the council.
“I would hope I don’t have to tell any of you that my actions and work on the council are always for the interests of Grand County,” Jackson said. “This not only applies to the public lands bill initiative, but with every other issue we deal with on behalf of the county.”
Love also alleged that preparation of the “Bishop plan will only allow minimal public participation” and “will be prepared behind closed doors and given to the public to review” and that the plan “will be done over the holiday season when the public is not available.”
Council administrator Ruth Dillon said that her office tentatively scheduled a few dates in mid-January for a public open house meeting at the Grand Center to “preview alternatives and listen to suggestions from Grand County residents” as per the direction of the council.
Jackson said that he felt the council, representing the county’s interests, should submit maps for Congressman Rob Bishop to consider while drafting public lands legislation.
“The congressman would like to introduce his bill by early next year before Congress,” Jackson said.
In the Grand County Council meeting packet it stated that the committee would develop a range of alternatives and prepare maps showing alternatives; hold a public house meeting in mid-January to preview alternatives and listen to suggestions from Grand County residents; and vote on preferred alternative in February in order to give a proposal to Congressmen Bishop and Jason Chaffetz in February or March.
“My major concern is that the validity of the Bishop Public Lands Proposal will be questioned by the public if any member of the committee has conflicting affiliations or interests with the oil, gas or mining industries,” Love said.
Ashley Korenblat of Western Spirit Cycling is one of two representatives for the Outdoor Industry Association during the Bishop negotiation. Brian Merrill of Western River Expeditions is the second.
“I believe Lynn is truly and sincerely working to find compromises and solutions,” Korenblat said.
She’s been actively working with Jackson regarding public lands issues since he began his term Jan. 2012.
“He is proposing a public mapping process,” Korenblat said. “You can not hide an agenda in a map.”
She acknowledged that by having a part-time county council instead of full-time commissioners, that council members “have to make a living somehow.”
“Most of us knew Lynn Jackson worked in this area before he was elected. He never kept it a secret,” she said. “They’re all going to have pre-existing positions, they will all have ties to something somewhere.”
Marc Thomas, a member of the Sierra Club’s Utah Chapter executive committee said he was less concerned about Jackson’s role and more about the process itself.
“The first thing is you want the public to be part of the process right from the start, so there is a legitimacy it might not otherwise have,” he said.
Councilman’s relationship with potash mining company revealed