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Ethics group says no conflict for Wintrow

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The Ohio Board of Ethics determined last week that Council President Karen Wintrow does not have a conflict of interest regarding the Center for Business and Education, or CBE, and is free to discuss and vote on CBE-related issues.

Wintrow has recused herself from discussion and voting on whether Council should provide funding for the CBE since mid-January, when a Columbus Free Press article highlighted a 2006 covenant from Education Village Inc., (the legal entity of Community Resources) that linked CBE development with architect Ted Donnell, who is married to Wintrow. The covenant identified Donnell, at the time an employee of K4 Architecture, as the sole member of the CBE’s Design Review Committee. At the time, Community Resources, which developed the CBE, had contracted design work with K4 Architecture.

After the article came out, Wintrow recused herself from CBE issues in “an abundance of caution,” since Community Resources no longer has a relationship with K4 and Donnell is no longer employed by the firm. And Community Resources replaced the 2006 covenant last month with a new covenant that does not include a role for Donnell.

The main question is whether Donnell currently has a relationship with the CBE, and it appears he does not, according to the Ethics Commissiion ruling.

“Provided that the involvement of the council member’s spouse with the CBE development has been completely and permanently terminated, she is not prohibited from participating in matters before council that affect it,” the ruling states. A public official is not prohibited from participating in a matter due to a past relationship, the ruling states.

And while some villagers expressed concern that Community Resources could hire Donnell in the future, “the mere speculation that the council member’s spouse could be hired to provide services does not create a conflict under the Ethics Law,” the ruling states.

However, according to the Ethics Commission, should Donnell be hired for future CBE services, Wintrow must immediately “withdraw from all matters before council that affect the CBE development.” Wintrow was not available for comment on Tuesday.

The Ohio Ethics Commission is comprised of Merom Brachman, chair, Maryann B. Gall, Bruce E. Bailey and Michael A. Flack.

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