Council Woman: No Conflict in Vote on $15,000 Loan to Save Historic House
Ward 6 Representative Tracy Wallach not involved with Kent Wells-Sherman House group at time of vote on city loan to help restore, relocate house
A Kent councilwoman who voted June 20 to loan city money to an effort to relocate and restore a historic house has become closely involved with a group formed around the effort.
Just days ago, Ward 6 representative Tracy Wallach became a member of the board of directors of the group, called Kent Wells Sherman House Inc., and acted on the group’s behalf to incorporate with the state.
On Wednesday, Wallach bowed to questions raised by opponents of the restoration plan by abstaining from a vote on a routine appropriations ordinance that included making $15,000 available in the city budget for the loan.
Concerns about the councilwoman's connection to the group surfaced this week when a supporter of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, the group that opposes relocating the house to a lot adjacent to its gallery, questioned Wallach's association with Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc.
Standing Rock supporter Lisa Regula Meyer emailed Mayor Jerry Fiala questioning whether Wallach would abstain from council action related to the house relocation effort.
"If anything comes up with the Wells Sherman House I will excuse myself," Wallach told Kent Patch before the meeting.
Kent Law Director Jim Silver said Wallach did nothing illegal or improper by taking a leading role with the group after voting for the city loan.
"It looks like it, but if she is not getting any money back from that connection it's not a problem," Silver said. "As long as she is just volunteering her time there's no problem with that."
Other members of council supported Wallach, emphasizing she did nothing illegal in her June 20 vote.
At-large Councilman Robin Turner said the law clearly states Wallach can vote on such an issue as long as neither she, nor a family member, directly receives money as a result.
"It's not like she's deriving any personal benefit from it," Turner said. "I don't see any conflict of interest at all."
Wallach said she’s aware that residents might raise questions about her June 20 vote and plans to abstain on any further action before council related to the issue.
"I believe the importance of restoring the house is so vital that I'm willing to take the hit," she said of the initial vote.
Since that vote, supporters of restoring the house formed the Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc., to take over the project. Some members of TransPortage opposed managing the project on the grounds it violated the group's mission statement.
"I was not involved in any committees when that (council vote) happened," Wallach said. "I didn't get involved until last week."