League questions board member’s eligibility ahead of controversial vote | TahoeDailyTribune.com

League questions board member’s eligibility ahead of controversial vote

Adam Jensen

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Whether Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board Member Claire Fortier should be able to deliberate or vote on projects was called into question by a Lake Tahoe Basin environmental group this week.

In a Monday e-mail to TRPA Governing Board members and staff, League to Save Lake Tahoe Executive Director Rochelle Nason questioned whether Fortier properly disclosed $9,681 the planning agency paid Laren Communications, Inc. last year. Laren Communications is Fortier’s Reno-based communications company.

Failing to properly disclose economic interests under TRPA’s rules and continuing to deliberate or vote on projects “may threaten the validity of any resulting action of the agency and may harm the agency, the public, and any affected project applicant,” Nason wrote in the e-mail.

“We believe that if the Laren, Inc. to which TRPA paid funds in 2010 for communications services is the same Laren Communications listed on your disclosure form, then the payment from TRPA to Laren should have been disclosed if $250 or more was received during the twelve months preceding your declaration on January 30, 2011,” Nason said. “If you have an ownership interest exceeding $1,000 in value in Laren, your filing should also be amended to disclose that information.”

The letter requests Fortier make details of her work for the TRPA public before participating in any further deliberations or votes.

According to both Fortier and TRPA spokesman Jeff Cowen, the planning agency paid Fortier the $9,681 for research on a 40th anniversary project.

Fortier said the research revolved around the TRPA’s pre-1980 history. Her last communication with the TRPA on the project was in January 2010, Fortier said.

The governing board member made the research she conducted for the TRPA available to the Tribune Tuesday and emphasized she was finished with the work long before her election to the South Lake Tahoe City Council and subsequent appointment to the TRPA Governing Board.

The TRPA legal team has not thoroughly reviewed the disclosure form, but, because Fortier’s work with the TRPA was not in relation to a specific project or policy, she should not be prevented from participating at Wednesday’s Governing Board meeting, said TRPA spokesman Jeff Cowen.

The Boulder Bay project, a controversial development at Tahoe’s North Shore, could be approved at the meeting.

Fortier said she would talk with TRPA lawyers to determine if she needed to amend her economic disclosure form, but said she did not expect the League’s letter to effect her participation Wednesday.

She said Nason’s letter amounts to “dirty tactics” by the environmental group to potentially disqualify a board member ahead of the Boulder Bay vote.

“It speaks very ill of the League,” Fortier said.

Nason disputed Fortier’s contention in a Tuesday e-mail, writing the League only became aware of the disclosure form last week.

“It has nothing to do with Boulder Bay, unless her work for TRPA involved that matter,” Nason said “If it did, she should have brought this forward herself a long time ago, and disqualified herself from deliberations and votes relating to the project. If it doesn’t, she just needs to make the proper disclosures so she is in a position to participate tomorrow.”

“If we were interested in using hardball tactics with respect to Boulder Bay we could have ‘waited in the weeds’ and then pointed out her nondisclosure and potential conflict of interest at the hearing itself, or even afterwards,” Nason added. “We hurried to get this letter done so she would have plenty of time to come into compliance.”

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