Council debates conflict of interest on golf course WEST COLUMBIA

October 22, 1992|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

At its meeting tonight, the Columbia Council will again take up the issue of whether one of its members has a conflict of interest in voting on a proposed $5.5 million golf course.

At issue is whether council member Joseph Merke, whose home is adjacent to one of the fairways for the proposed Fairway Hills Golf Course, should be allowed to vote on approving the Columbia Association project.

Mr. Merke was criticized by several fellow council members last week because he had participated in an Oct. 8 vote on whether he had a conflict of interest on the the golf course proposal. A legal opinion issued last week by the Columbia Association's staff lawyer said Mr. Merke shouldn't have participated in the Oct. 8 vote.

As a result of that ruling -- sought by two dissenting council members -- council Chairman John Hansen said he'll propose that the 5-4 vote to allow Mr. Merke to vote on the golf course be rescinded.

Mr. Hansen says he'll then ask the council to reconsider whether Mr. Merke should be barred from voting on the golf course. The vote on Mr. Merke's situation could produce a deadlock since the eight other council members are split on the issue.

But council member Fran Wishnick said she's sought legal advice on whether Mr. Merke should be barred from voting on the golf course proposal under the council's recently strengthened conflict-of-interest policy.

That legal opinion is expected to be made public at tonight's council session, which begins at 8 p.m. at the Columbia Association's new offices at 10221 Wincopin Circle in Columbia.

Mr. Merke has said that if he's barred from voting on the proposal, he'll step down from the council so the Town Center village board can appoint a new representative who can vote on the golf course proposal.

The proposal calls for building a regulation-size, 18-hole course on open land near Columbia Road in the village Town Center.

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