“Never solicit or accept money, loans, credits or prejudicial discounts, gifts, entertainment, favors or services from your present or potential suppliers which might influence or appear to influence purchasing decisions.” – City of Cheyenne “Handbook on Purchasing”
BY D. REED ECKHARDT
Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr’s new wheels are getting a lot of attention on social media right now.
And not much of it is good.
According to local media reports, Orr has just been handed a spanking new white Dodge Ram truck. Inscribed on the side are the words: “THE MAYOR Marian Orr, Cheyenne, Wyoming.”
Normally, when a public official gets a new car, it’s not a big deal. But in this case
it’s a gift from a local automobile dealer who currently is: 1 – seeking permission to locate his new dealership on “undeveloped public property”; and 2 – who could, at some point, become a supplier of vehicles to the city.
|Mayor Marian Orr's new loaner, courtesy of a local car dealer.|
It turns out the mayor’s new wheels are a loaner from “Dealin’ Doug” Moreland, the owner of Cowboy Chrysler, Dodge Jeep Ram here in the Capital City. According to the mayor, “Dealin’ Doug” will be loaning red vehicles to CFD committee chairmen and women and “he thought the mayor should have one as well.”
But the problem with this is obvious: None of the other committee chair people are in charge of City Hall. They have no control over the use of public dollars to buy cars, SUVs and trucks for city use, and they have no influence over how public lands are used. If Dealin’ Doug wants to give CFD’s board members limousines and chauffeurs, that is his, and their, choice. But his giving – and the mayor’s receiving – this truck is a whole other ballgame, and one that Orr should be sitting out.
The city’s purchasing handbook is clear about whether the mayor should be accepting a gift from a supplier, even for just the 10 days of CFD. The code says officials should avoid “showing favoritism or (being) influenced by suppliers through the acceptance of gifts.” And it adds that officials should “refrain from publicly endorsing products.”
Little more needs to be said about the first clause, since this clearly is a gift from a potential supplier. And the mayor’s proud announcement on her Facebook page of this truck and its donor is a clear violation of the second. The mayor might as well have done a TV ad for Dealin’ Doug instead.
Then there is this from the handbook: “In the case of any gift, care should be taken … that it will not be perceived by your peers or others as unethical.”
So much for that. The people of Cheyenne know a questionable action when they see one. Here are just a few comments from Facebook about the mayor’s spanking new loaner:
“Isn’t that a conflict of interest for the city?” – Anthony Gagliardi
“Oh, nice job, Mayor. Are you friends with Sarah Palin?” – Edward Battig
“Yeah, the perks of the privileged.” – Carol Thomas
Beyond the city’s purchasing handbook, there also is an outside chance that Orr’s acceptance of this vehicle is a violation of state law.
Wyoming State Statutes Title 9, Chapter 13 governs the ethics of public officials. It makes it clear that officials are not to receive “anything of value.” Whether that would include the use of a loaner from Dealin’ Doug might remain to be seen, but why would Orr even want to stray near those boundaries?
But assume for a moment that all of this is innocent. That Dealin’ Doug just wants to help the mayor and this city make a good impression. That this isn’t about a private businessman trying to influence city decisions that directly involve him. That Orr truly sees the truck as a good-hearted gift. That the mayor’s detractors are out of bounds.
It still remains that this is an appearance of a conflict of interest, and good leaders make every effort to avoid that. Either Orr is not seeing that appearance, or she is arrogantly ignoring it. Both of those options do not speak well of the city’s top elected official.
Orr should immediately call up Dealin’ Doug and have him pick up his truck. This vehicle never was needed, or it already would have been part of the city’s motor pool. It is an unnecessary extravagance that lends further to the atmosphere of arrogance and privilege that are becoming the hallmarks of the Orr administration.
The bottom line here: There will be enough rodeo queens in Cheyenne over the next couple of weeks. We don’t need one at City Hall as well.
D. Reed Eckhardt is the former executive editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.