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Attorney issues opinion on conflict of interest allegations

A resident’s allegation that the Nisswa mayor and a city council member had a conflict of interest regarding the public restroom/chamber of commerce building resulted in council member Tina Foster recusing herself from votes that pertained to that project May 7.

Foster did vote May 15 to award the building project to the low bidder, which city attorney Clyde Ahlquist said was OK.

Nisswa resident Tom Groen had alleged conflict of interest on the part of mayor Brian Lehman because he is a dues-paying chamber member, and on the part of Foster because she is on the chamber board of directors. He objected to Foster being part of a committee to negotiate rent with the chamber for its portion of the building.

In a written opinion, Ahlquist said he determined neither Lehman nor Foster had a personal financial interest and would not personally benefit financially by participating and voting on matters related to the city’s public restroom/chamber of commerce building.

Ahlquist also said the chamber has a duty to its members, but the members have no duty to the chamber other than paying dues. Therefore, Lehman had no conflict of interest in that regard either.

However, Ahlquist said that as a member of the board of directors, Foster did have a duty to the chamber. Therefore, he advised her to voluntarily recuse herself from all proceedings related to the project. She did not participate in votes on this project May 7 or in any more lease negotiations.