The Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council is getting a refresher on conflicts of interest.
The 12-member panel recommends funding from the Legacy constitutional amendment for outdoors projects, and since it was created following the amendment’s passage in 2008 has recommended giving out $231.4 million. But the panel has been under scrutiny – particularly as some members have voted for projects proposed by groups that they have affiliations with.
Panel members however have insisted there have been no conflicts that have prevented them from casting final votes.
Bill Becker, the council’s executive director, said the council will listen to a presentation at its meeting Friday on what is – and isn’t – a conflict of interest but said it was mostly routine because the council has several new members. “It’s because of new members. As for the others, it doesn’t hurt to hear [it] again,” he wrote in an email.
The presentation comes a month after Scott Rall, a council member, Pheasants Forever chapter president and volunteer of the year for Pheasants Forever in Minnesota, defended casting several votes that together recommended $30 million for Pheasants Forever projects. Rall was reappointed to the council last month by Gov. Mark Dayton.
The council’s rules encourage those with hunting and fishing expertise to sit on the panel, and states that simply belonging to a group being recommended for funding is not a conflict.
According to the handout that will be given to the council on Friday, the state policy explains that conflicts of interest “may be actual or perceived”. A perceived conflict, the policy adds, “is any situation in which a reasonable third party would conclude that conflicting duties or loyalties exist.”
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The Legacy funding bill was passed unanimously this week by the Minnesota House.