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Developer accuses BoA’s King of ethics violations

Friday, May 5, 2017 by Jo Clifton

The city’s Ethics Review Commission will hold a preliminary hearing next Wednesday to determine whether there are “reasonable grounds” to consider an ethics complaint filed against Board of Adjustment member Bryan King.

Ross Wilson of PSW Real Estate, which is building duplexes in South Austin, filed the complaint against King. The complaint alleges that although King recused himself from voting on an appeal his neighborhood association filed to prevent building of the 10 to 12 duplexes, King inappropriately inserted himself into the process.

Those duplexes are immediately adjacent to King’s home, according to Wilson and others familiar with the case.

Update: King contacted the Monitor on Friday with a response. He said, “It appears the complaint is unfortunately based on misinformation and misunderstanding. I advised the board that I was recusing myself the day the interpretation case was filed in September, did not attended any executive sessions, did not address the board and did not vote on any matter related to the case. I see no ethical issue.”

Last summer, the South Lamar Neighborhood Association requested that the Board of Adjustment determine “whether staff erred in its issuance of a building permit for 3206 and 3208 Aldwyche Dr. to construct two new single family attached dwelling units with an arbor structure connecting the dwelling units,” according to language on the board’s agenda.

King is well-known as a frequent representative of his neighborhood and is listed as a founding member of the group.

Wilson told the Austin Monitor that there was no question about the legality of the use of the trellis and that such use had been declared to be legal in a document from a city building official as early as 2003.

The complaint against King alleges nine separate instances of violations of city ethics regulations starting on October 6 and ending on February 27, after the developer had prevailed and the board had denied the neighborhood’s motion to reconsider.

According to Wilson’s complaint, on October 6, “King requested a postponement of appeal of case on behalf of neighborhood association on the matter before the board in which he likely would be presenting.”

The complaint states that on October 10, King remained on the dais for a vote in connection with the appeal even though he said he was “abstaining” from voting on the item.

On November 14, the complaint alleges, “King requested postponement of Appeal again as applicant, but met in Executive Session with other board members when the matter was discussed.” King later argued against scheduling a special called meeting to hear the case, Wilson said.

There were other allegations relating to King’s representation of the neighborhood group, including a statement that on December 12, he moved from the dais to the audiovisual stand and “instructed staff which slides to show to assist applicant.” Wilson also states that King interjected his opinion to the board about procedure and advised other speakers for the neighborhood during the board’s consideration of the item.

On December 13, the complaint alleges, “King emailed neighborhood association members relaying (that the) appeal was denied but shared information relating to board members’ discussions about the case he had overheard … And that he would begin application for reconsideration.”

According to the complaint, on December 21, “King continued to participate in and investigate the case in conflict with the board’s rules of procedure.”

Wilson said, “We did not want to go down this path,” referring to the filing of the complaint. “But we felt in this instance his actions were so egregious … it was important to bring it to everybody’s attention.”

In general, however, “I think the Board of Adjustment, more than any other board and commission, does a very good job of very clearly defining the line outside of hearings on the case,” Wilson said.

He concluded, “This was new for us; it’s pretty shocking.”

As for the project, Wilson said all of the site development work has been done and 10 or 11 units are under construction. They should be completed by June or July, he said.

Wilson said the initial submission for permission to build the duplexes was late spring of 2013. “It’s a very long time for building something,” he said.

If the commission finds there is reason to believe the city’s ethics rules have been violated, it must schedule a hearing within 30 days on the matter, according to Assistant City Attorney Cindy Tom.

This story has been updated.

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