"Allegations of a serious breach of integrity"
COLUMBIA, 2/8/13 (Beat Byte) -- Emails and other public documents that support "allegations of improprieties by city staff" must be part of a Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) report to the Columbia City Council, Mayor Bob McDavid said at Monday night's meeting.
At an HPC public hearing last Thursday, commission chair Brian Treece raised the allegations, based on a public information request that included an email exchange between former city manager Bill Watkins and then-5th Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, deliberately interfering with her constituent duties. Mrs. Nauser represented the Grasslands neighborhood on the City Council while neighborhood association leaders and City Hall developed a 2-phase PIP plan to widen and improve Providence Road. Treece's comments did not impute Mrs. Nauser.
Treece and fellow commissioners "allege that city officials made a deliberate effort to keep opposing stakeholders from talking to each other during formulation of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 plans by encouraging Council members to engage stakeholder groups separately rather than at once," Dr. McDavid explained. "I consider these allegations by the HPC serious; they represent allegations of a serious breach of integrity on the part of city staffers and possibly City Council members."

In emails to Watkins, Mrs. Nauser expressed frustration that she learned of PIP stakeholder meetings after the fact. "As the Grasslands is in my Ward, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to attend those meetings," she told Watkins, who recommended against meeting with "warring factions."

Watkins told the Councilwoman that city staff would have the "most flexibility" if stakeholder groups were kept apart. "Let staff meet individually (which is what we are doing currently) and get the lay of the land with each party prior to bringing them together," he emailed.
The Mayor asked for a "formal report by the HPC on these allegations." He wants the report to "state what improprieties occurred," and provide "any and all evidence, including all emails which show any impropriety by any member of city staff and any Council member."
The Mayor asked the report be submitted to the Council by Feb. 18.