Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Foxx's new job raising eyebrows

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2009 at 8:15 PM

Oh boy, here we go. The revelation last week by the Business Journal that Mayor Anthony Foxx has a new job — in-house attorney for DesignLine International — is raising some eyebrows. Now that the daily paper has run a story about it, albeit a week late,  you can be sure conservatives will be raising hell. The trouble is that, in a way, they’d have a point — or at least a justification for their carping.

DesignLine International is a maker of hybrid buses, and does business with the city, so even if Foxx’s relationship is completely on the up and up — and, to date, there’s no reason to think otherwise — the possibility of a major conflict of interest will hover over the city’s dealings with the company.

Foxx told the Observer he will not lobby other cities for the manufacturer, and did, in fact, recuse himself in the Spring when City Council voted on a matter related to DesignLine (Foxx started doing some legal work for the company in March.) The mayor and city attorney Mac McCarley both say a conflict of interest can be avoided, even if DesignLine sells buses to CATS.

Former mayor McCrory worked part-time for Duke Energy and although no one directly accused McCrory of working behind the scenes for Duke, he did spend time shilling for nuclear power in repeated public statements.

The conservative Web site MeckDeck is already bemoaning Foxx’s ties to DesignLine, and clearly combing through documents in order to find a conflict of interest. Maybe there’s one, maybe there’s not. The point here is that conflicts of interest — and even the appearance of the possibility of a conflict of interest – can cast a shadow over an administration, and often turn into serious distractions for municipal leaders. As we’ve repeatedly pointed out, if Charlotte would make the mayor and council jobs full-time rather than part-time, these conflicts would come up less often, and would bring broader confidence in local government from voters.

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