Daily Press – Attorney General Issues Opinion on Transportation Commission’s Conflict of Interest
By J. Elias O’Neal Daily Press
AG issues opinion on HRTAC conflict of interest
After sitting idle on its plans to secure a financial institution that would potentially bank billions in taxpayer monies for major regional road projects, members of the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC) may now have the momentum it needs to proceed forward.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion, concluding that the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act allows voting members of the commission to “constitute a quorum with the authority to act by a majority vote.”
The drafted ruling comes months after State Sen. Frank Wagner, a Virginia Beach Republican and commission member, requested clarification on how to proceed with potential conflicts of interest between committee members that may have a stake with financial institutions, and other bidders, looking to do business with HRTAC.
There are 19 voting members on the commission: 14 serve as mayors or county commissioner chairs. The remaining five are state lawmakers.
Despite their public roles, a number of the committee members have financial ties to, or work, for high-profile financial and contracting firms that could be awarded contracts, or big-dollar deposits, by the commission – prompting Wagner to seek an opinion on the matter on behalf of the commission.
The ruling may also allow group to finally select a financial firm to deposit roughly $200 million a year in funds from the Hampton Roads Transportation Fund — a large pot of money collected from local sales and gas taxes to help fund major road projects that address congestion.
Money from the fund, which is also charged a permanent fee by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Taxation, is spent at the discretion of the accountability commission.
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