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October 21, 2014

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Ethics panel clears councilman to vote on Boulder Dam Hotel

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Duncan McCoy

Boulder Dam Hotel

The Treasured Times Tearoom is one of the rooms refurbished in the Boulder Dam Hotel under the supervision of manager Roger Shoaff. The tearoom, one of the amenities and sources of revenue at the hotel, offers tea by reservation only. Launch slideshow »

Boulder Dam Hotel

City Councilman Duncan McCoy should have been allowed to vote in July on a bailout of the Boulder Dam Hotel, the Nevada Commission on Ethics has ruled.

The commission on a 7-1 vote Thursday agreed with McCoy that his past position as a board member of the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association, which owns the hotel, and his recent contribution of $1,000 to save the hotel, which was in danger of closing, were not reason enough for him to abstain.

“A majority of the NCOE members present also expressed the belief that Councilman McCoy was not even obligated under the law to disclose anything regarding his past relationship with BCMHA,” City Attorney Dave Olsen wrote in an e-mail summarizing the decision for City Council members. Olsen had advised McCoy to abstain after his disclosure.

A proposal to give the hotel a grant from redevelopment funds to keep it afloat through the summer failed on a 2-2 vote. McCoy said after the meeting he supported a bailout.

The hotel closed four days later when it ran out of money. It had fallen behind three months on its mortgages of $940,000 and owed insurance payments and vendors. It had enough for a final payroll for employees.

It reopened two weeks later after an anonymous donor gave $240,000.

“The ruling in essence means that your community service affiliation before you get elected should not have an effect on whether or not you can participate in certain kinds of issues in front of your public body,” McCoy said. “That’s really good news. That’s one of the reasons I sought the opinion in the first place.”

The Ethics Commission determined McCoy had no conflict based on the facts that the museum association was not a member of McCoy’s household, related to McCoy, an employer of either McCoy or a member of his family, a business partner or in any other commitment or relationship that violated the ethics law, Olsen said.

“Clearly, the trend in Nevada is toward having elected officials participate in the discussion and vote as representatives of their constituents,” Olsen wrote in the e-mail. The commission said that in potential conflicts of interest, the state’s ethics law “should be applied with an eye toward encouraging members of the public body to participate in discussion and vote on issues,” he wrote.

While the hotel received a donation that kept it afloat, McCoy said it was important to have the Ethics Commission provide guidance for all elected officials who have served on community boards.

“I’m really surprised that something similar hasn’t come before them,” he said. “I’m sure this kind of situation develops from time to time in local government.”

The decision frees McCoy to vote on any future requests by the museum and historical association, and the group’s president, Darryl Martin, said one will be forthcoming.

The association plans to launch a capital campaign to retire the $940,000 debt on the hotel, which houses the Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum and its archives, in order to strengthen its bottom line. As part of that campaign, the association plans to approach the Redevelopment Agency again for a grant, Martin said. The board has not yet discussed when that will be or how much it will seek, he said.

McCoy said he will be glad to participate in future discussions that come before the council.

“I don’t know what kind of request we would see in the future, but I do know I’ve been given a benediction from the Ethics Commission and I can participate in future discussions when they occur,” he said.

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