County administrator Pat Bean misuses authority to benefit developers
Pat Bean is off her chain again. This time she’s shilling for developers who want to change our Comprehensive Plan to build a huge commercial project in the rural area. I was with several U-CAN & Sierra Club members participating in a Planning Commission hearing Monday night, when the developers’ attorney, Rhea Law, flaunted a letter from Ms. Bean, touting her support of their project. We were appalled at this unprecedented breach of process:
[Bob] Hunter has been executive director of the planning commission for 23 years. In that time, he said, no county administrator has advocated for or against a matter set to be considered by the planning board. “This validates the need and the importance of an independent role for the planning commission,” Hunter said. “It is separate from the county administrator who works for county officials.”
It is Bean who recommends the annual budget for Hunter’s department, so her letter, addressed to Hunter, carries a financial weight that should not be brought to bear on land use decisions by our Planning Commission. County Commissioner, Rose Ferlita seems to agree with me that Bean is out of bounds:
“Acting in her capacity as an administrator, it could go toward the perception that she was supporting or lobbying for that project,” said County Commissioner Rose Ferlita. “I want our administrator to be an administrator.”
Mariella Smith, a member of the grassroots group, United Citizens Action Network, said Bean’s letter could be construed as the county commission exerting pressure on the planning board. “She is an agent for the county commission and she appears to be speaking with their authority,” Smith said.
I wrote the letter below to Bean’s bosses, our county commissioners, about her latest stunt:
Subject: Pat Bean’s breach of land use procedure
Dear County Commissioners,
Please see Pat Bean’s letter (attached) supporting Comp Plan amendments 10-04 & 10-05. This letter was posted online for review by Planning Commissioners, prior to last night’s Planning Commission hearing. It was also waved about and presented with great flourish at the hearing by the applicant’s attorney, Rhea Law, as proof of this county’s support of her client’s application to change our Comprehensive Plan.
It is highly inappropriate for the County Administrator, who reports directly to the County Commission, to influence the Planning Commission to support a privately initiated Comp Plan amendment. In this case, your administrator is expressing your support for expanding the Urban Service Area boundary to benefit a large, private business enterprise, before you have held the requisite public hearing.
The Administrator’s job is to implement policy as directed by the BOCC. In this case, the BOCC has not yet taken a position, which they can only do at a public hearing, which has not yet been held. Therefore, the Administrator ought not to be expressing your position, since you don’t have a position yet, as a board.
The BOCC’s position is supposed to be settled at a public hearing, AFTER the independent Planning Commission has reached their position — independently from you. Indeed, the BOCC is supposed to consider the Planning Commission’s position, not influence it, either directly or through your administrator. For the BOCC or their agent, the County Administrator, to try to influence the Planning Commission’s position, prior to the BOCC hearing, is an outrageous subversion of the process — a subversion which undermines the vital independence of the Planning Commission.
While county staff in various departments do provide comment for review by Planning Commissioners and your board, it is a breach of procedure for your administrator to override those professional staff comments, from her position above them, reporting directly to you. It is no less wrong than if any of you wrote directly to the Planning Commission urging them to support a Comp Plan amendment.
Is Pat Bean speaking for any specific commissioners in this letter? Have any of you directed her to support this application? Is Pat Bean now the go-to gal for developers — or you — to push Comp Plan changes through the Planning Commission? Comp Plan amendments are not routinely reviewed by Pat Bean, so how, exactly, did Rhea Law gain the county’s administrative support for her client’s project?
Please let me know whether Pat Bean’s conduct was legal or not. Even if it is technically legal, it is certainly improper. What will you do about this?
This is not the first time Bean has exceeded her authority. She raised her own pay in a move that has been challenged legally and ethically. (The Tribune ripped on her “Bean-headed pay raises,” the Times called for her head, Creative Loafing contributor George Niemann filed ethics complaints against her, and Kelly Cornelius chewed her up and spit her out.) Bean campaigned against letting citizens vote to continue ELAPP (it passed with 80% of the vote). She has campaigned (on your dime) against other citizen initiatives, and she misled state legislators about the county’s position on pending state legislation.
You may want to write your county commissioners, too, and ask them to rein Bean in.