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Bend councilors spar over planning commission pick


Two Bend city councilors sparred Wednesday night over appointing a builder to the city planning commission, which one said poses a conflict of interest — something his colleague strongly disputed.

Mayor Casey Roats said builder Jeff Payne is qualified for the appointment, but Councilor Nathan Boddie said he believes that Payne, as president of the Central Oregon Builders Association board, is a leader of a special interest heavily not just in land-use planning but political issues.

The council voted 5-2 to appoint Payne, but Boddie called the appointment a conflict of interest. Mayor Roats said no way.

“Having a builder on the planning commission is absolutely no conflict of interest,” Roats told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday. “In fact, state law allows for there to be up to two (builders), and that is for good reason. We don’t want it stacked with any one occupation of the community. It needs to be representative of the community — and the builders are a big part of the community.”

Boddie said it’s not the person he’s against, but a conflict of interest with the association Payne represents and its involvement in last year’s election.

“The organization which Mr. Payne is a president of, gave a tremendous amount of money to several council seats, effectively buying up a few seats in the last race,” he said.

According to the Oregon secretary of the state’s website, the Central Oregon Builders Association gave thousands of dollars to several local campaign political action committees during the general election season.

The PAC’s donated to the campaigns of two newly elected councilors, Bill Moseley and Justin Livingston, and re-elected Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell.

City Attorney Mary Winters said Payne will have to follow the same rules that apply to any public officials, declaring conflicts of interest or recusing themselves from issues in which they would directly financially benefit..

The planning commission reviews proposed code changes and zoning ordinances and gives recommendations to the city council, which has the final say.

The majority of the council is sticking by Roats’ decision.

“If anything that actually comes up and there was some sort of issue, the buck stops with me,” Roats said.

Jeff Payne sent the following statement to NewsChannel 21:

“It is my pleasure to finally be selected for the City of Bend Planning Commission. While I did not have the opportunity to interview with the entire council, it is my hope that those who supported me did so because of my ‘hands-on’ practical experience in construction and development, my contribution to the City of Bend Accessibility Advisory Committee, Oregon Building Codes Board, and personal integrity.

“Though newly elected as president of COBA, I am not currently building and am dedicating much of 2017 to the betterment of Bend, including creating a program to recruit those high schoolers not destined for college to become skilled tradesmen. It’s my opinion that any committee is best served in policy and in its determination by the objectivity and experience of its members. It is my further opinion that members of the planning commission are appointed to serve at the direction of City Council without the injection of a descending agenda.”

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