Friday, December 17, 2010

Lake Worth taps new chief for planning and preservation

Click title for link to PBP article.

Living in Lake Worth and paying attention to things going on, one gets used to the unusual, the uncommon and the unprecedented.  Once in a while, something happens that is so blatantly questionable that what you have seen before seems insignificant.  This is one of those moments.

When I worked for the City of West Palm Beach as a planner (1989 to 1993), I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know William Waters.  At that time, he went by "Dale", his middle name, and I will forever think of him as "Dale", not William - but that's my problem and has nothing to do with the situation before us.  I have great respect for William as a fellow professional planner and was pleased to know that he would be working with REG on the Casino rehabilitation project.  William made the presentation at Tuesday's City Commission work session on the status of the project and reported that the application for site plan approval had been submitted to the city.  The item is to appear on the Planning and Zoning Board's agenda of January 5, 2011.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?  What is wrong is that we have a professional planner involved in the preparation of a site plan application that the same professional planner will be in the position of reviewing as one of the first orders of business.  One does not put oneself in a position where you review your own work product.  This is a blatant conflict of interest, in my opinion, as the city residents, who pay Mr.
Walters' salary, cannot be assured of total objectivity in review of the site plan.  To be marching forward under this cloud, brings into question the motivation of people responsible for making this decision.  That this question of integrity and apparent conflict of interest can even be raised is disturbing.  Here Lake Worth is with its most conspicuous project - the beach and in an age of heightened ethical awareness, supposedly, and the city has allowed a situation to evolve to a point that brings into question the integrity of that process.  I am surprised that the players here allowed this to happen and seem to be supremely comfortable with this decision.

Part of being a certified planner is adhering to a code of ethics. AICP Code of Ethics.  One of the "Aspirational Principles" is as follows:

A: Principles to Which We Aspire

2. Our Responsibility to Our Clients and Employers
We owe diligent, creative, and competent performance of the work we do in pursuit of our client or employer's interest. Such performance, however, shall always be consistent with our faithful service to the public interest.
a) We shall exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of our clients and employers.
b) We shall accept the decisions of our client or employer concerning the objectives and nature of the professional services we perform unless the course of action is illegal or plainly inconsistent with our primary obligation to the public interest.
c) We shall avoid a conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest in accepting assignments from clients or employers.
This is transparency? Can we practice what we preach?  If we go forward, at least we need to bring someone else in who has the qualifications to review the application prepared by Mr. Waters.