Plano council recusal 11.23

Councilman Rick Smith, one of the sponsors of a December 2020 recusal ordinance, said he supports the proposed two-year limit. 

A proposed change to a political contribution-based recusal ordinance was tabled in Plano City Council’s Monday meeting.

The vote comes almost one year after the passage of a December 2020 ordinance, which held that council members must recuse themselves of any vote that is of interest to campaign donors who donate $1,000 or more to their campaign.

The tabled ordinance, which will be voted on in the council’s next meeting on Dec. 13, would limit the effectiveness of these conflicts of interest to two years after the contribution is made. It would also permit a vote from a recused party if the recusal impedes the council’s ability to establish a quorum. In such an event, the council member is required to disclose the nature of the conflict of interest on the record before the vote.

During the meeting’s public comment period, residents criticized the ordinance, arguing that it subverts the original intent of the December 2020 law and would make the council appear less transparent and accountable.

“People are tired of corruption in government, so we should be doing all we can to refute that image for Plano, and the ordinance as passed last December has helped to do that,” said Colleen Aguilar-Epstein, a Plano resident who unsuccessfully ran for Councilman Rick Grady’s Place 3 seat in 2019. “Limiting the recusal period to only two years is a complete undermining of the intent of the recusal ordinance.”

Another commenter, Plano resident John Donovan, said that the quorum exception would make it possible for campaign donors to circumvent the recusal requirements in donating to at least four candidates, thereby making a quorum contingent on their non-recusal.

“It’s just going to encourage bad behavior by people who are trying to undermine the system,” Donovan said.

Councilman Rick Smith, who sponsored the 2020 ordinance along with former Councilwoman Lily Bao, expressed support for the proposed two-year limit.

“If somebody’s unduly trying to influence a council member or a legislator or whoever, you’re typically going to do it when it’s going to be fresh in someone’s mind, and historically looking at finance reports and so forth, it’s generally within an 18-month period of an election cycle when people are making their donations,” Smith said.

Due to the absence of Mayor Pro Tem Kayci Prince and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Maria Tu, the council voted 6-0 to table the ordinance to the next meeting.

In August, an ordinance seeking to repeal the recusal law was tabled to a later work session. In a Nov. 8 work session, the proposed ordinance was revised to include the two-year time limit while keeping the recusal requirements intact.

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