Local Politics

Wake commissioner denies conflict of interest

Posted September 15, 2008 5:23 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2008 7:19 p.m. EDT

— Wake County Commissioner Kenn Gardner defended himself Monday against allegations that he used his position to advance a project on which his company worked.

Gardner's architectural firm was providing services to the Triangle Aquatics Center, or TAC, in Cary when he voted against a plan that would have provided money to a competing plan for swimming facilities in the town.

"I want to first emphasize that I have never misused my office as a public official," Gardner said at a Monday meeting. "These attacks are personal as well as political. I have been unable to respond at the direction of my attorney."

Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said Gardner denied having a financial interest in issues related to the TAC project when it was before the board.

"It does bring up ethical questions," Ward said. "He would have been better off to recuse himself from the subject matter and just gone on."

Gardner sued TAC last year, seeking nearly $400,000 for the time he spent designing the building. He recently settled with the center for $25,000.

TAC President Michael Curran said Gardner was one of several founding members who was supposed to be volunteering their time on the project.

"We're angry. We're upset," Curran said. "There was never a time, either in writing or verbally, (where) we expected Mr. Gardner to be paid. We were very surprised when we saw the lawsuit."

Gardner apologized Monday for any misunderstanding.

TAC has countersued Gardner, alleging his work was substandard.