Board finds no conflict in Mirror Pond deal

Members of an oversight committee say they see no problem with Mirror Pond project manager Jim Figurski’s prior connection to the company favored for a consulting contract.

Figurski, a former principal with GreenWorks, a Portland firm, appears to present no conflict of interest under Oregon law, and Figurski disclosed to the Mirror Pond Steering Committee his connection to the company before reviewing contract proposals. The committee could award GreenWorks a contract later this month.

Committee member Bill Smith, of William Smith Properties Inc., said the committee discussed Figurski’s previous employment with GreenWorks and at least one other firm that submitted a proposal for the project.

“We discussed that at length,” Smith said. “Jim made all the disclosures.”

Figurski worked at GreenWorks, a landscape architecture and environmental design firm, for more than a decade and was a principal there when he retired in February 2011. Figurski said Friday that he held stock in the company worth less than $40,000 when he retired, and he receives a payout that is amortized over five years.

“In terms of whether I have a financial interest, the money that’s paid to me as a retirement is basically a stock payout, and is independent of whether GreenWorks continues to make a profit or not,” Figurski said. “I am, in essence, another creditor.”

The contract is to develop and illustrate with drawings a set of alternatives to manage sediment in Mirror Pond. Sediment has piled up in the pond, which was created by a dam at Newport Avenue in Bend. The price range for the contract was advertised as $75,000 to $100,000, and Figurski said he hopes to take a contract to the park district board for approval Feb. 19. The city of Bend and the park district have pledged $200,000 toward finding a solution for Mirror Pond.

Figurski said the Pacific Northwest landscape architecture and environmental design community is small, and he worked at or with nearly all of the firms that submitted proposals for the Mirror Pond project. Two members of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, an interagency group that oversees the search for a solution for the pond, also said they did not see a problem with Figurski’s connection to GreenWorks.

Under Oregon law, public officials who undertake actions or decisions that affect businesses with which they are associated may have a conflict of interest. This includes a business in which a public official owned stock or had another form of equity interest worth at least $1,000 in the last calendar year. This does not appear to apply in Figurski’s case, because he took a stock payout from GreenWorks more than a year before working on the Mirror Pond contract.

Figurski wrote the request for proposals that described the project for potential bidders, said Bend Director of Community Development Mel Oberst, a steering committee member. “We made a lot of changes to it, and then he sent it out,” Oberst said. “We’re having Jim negotiate the price within the limits we set.”

The steering committee evaluated and scored each firm’s proposal. The steering committee includes officials from the city and the park district, as well as Smith, whose company owns the dam at Colorado Avenue upstream from the pond. The committee also includes a representative of Pacific Power, which owns the dam that created Mirror Pond, and a member of Bend 2030, a civic group.

“The second-place firm also had the same kind of fuzz on their tennis ball,” Smith said, referring to the fact that Figurski had worked for more than one of the companies that sought the contract.

“When I made my ranking sheet, I made (GreenWorks) number one and I didn’t know that he had worked for them,” Smith said. “He told us he doesn’t have any financial interest there. That one is as pure as Caesar’s wife.”

Oberst also said the committee discussed Figurski’s ties to firms that submitted proposals for the project.

“He’s been around for so long, he’s worked for almost all of these companies,” Oberst said. “He’s a veteran of this kind of environmental analysis. He’s 30 years into it.”

Committee members wondered aloud whether Figurski’s history with the firms was an issue. Oberst said it was his understanding that Figurski is completely retired from GreenWorks and does not have a financial interest in the company.

It would be good for the consultant to get an early start on the work this year, because it does require scientific analysis that could require the contractor to work in the river, Oberst said. The proposed options for the pond must be based on information about fisheries and hydraulic actions of the river, Oberst said.

Figurski said he hopes the visioning process brings some clarity to the future of Mirror Pond.

“I think really what I’m ultimately looking forward to getting to is … having a definite direction that we can move forward with,” Figurski said Friday. “I think it’s been missing before, knowing from the community what direction we want to go.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

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