The city of Lafayette is now without a full Planning Commission, after five of the body’s seven members abruptly resigned this week in response to the city’s new law about how the planning department addresses conflicts of interest.
“Whereas the old policy allowed commissioners with professional conflicts of interest to recuse themselves from certain policy discussions and decisions, the new policy demands that they resign from the commission,” the Lafayette city site explains.
Lafayette’s City Council adopted the new rules on a 3-2 vote on Monday.
In response, commissioners Patricia Curtin, Thomas Chastain, Jeanne Ateljevich, Will Lovitt, and commission chair Peter Gutzwiller quit.
“We certainly do not want to imply improper action or mal-intent by those who have provided their service to the city with only good intentions, but it does feel like my colleagues and I have been found guilty of crimes we didn’t commit,” Gutzwiller says in his letter of resignation.
“I am truly shocked that our leaders believe one is guilty until proven innocent,” writes Curtin. “I am equally sickened that the council had the audacity to exempt themselves from this rule. They have created a false hierarchy I want no part of.”
At Monday’s council meeting, folks in Lafayette seemed sensitive about the fact that commission members had to recuse themselves from certain cases.
“When I went through the minutes, I found examples where two and three of the agenda items were presented by firms of the commissioners,” Lafayette resident Scott Summer told the City Council. “It’s a big problem.”
“There have been a lot of trust issues and transparency issues,” neighbor Cheryl McDonald testified at the meeting, although she did not provide any particular examples. McDonald called the anti-conflict of interest law “a healing motion.”
With only two members remaining, the Lafayette is now effectively without a Planning Commission at all.
“Since it is now impossible to achieve a quorum, [...] the city has therefore canceled the April 2 meeting of the Layfayette Planning Commission,” according to the city.
Instead the City Council will hold a special meeting on April 2 to discuss how best to resolve Planning Commission business.