Tuesday’s resignation by Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commissioner Doug Kuepers brings to a close at least part of a messy political proceeding.
Kuepers stepped down after the Brainerd city attorney issued an opinion that a conflict of interest existed because Kuepers’ construction company had been hired as on-site manager on the airport terminal remodeling project.
The airport commission and Kuepers should have seen this conflict of interest coming from a mile away. If they were uncertain about the proper way to hire the Kuepers firm while still allowing him to sit on the commission, the matter should have been researched before and not after entering into a contract.
Elected and appointed officials must clearly state potential conflicts of interest and as airport attorney Patrick Krueger suggested, annual training seminars to update board members of statute updates and court interpretations are also a good idea.
Boards and commissions that operate out of the public spotlight must take particular care to keep precise minutes and act in accordance with parliamentary procedure so their actions are beyond reproach.
Finding people to serve on the panels such as the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport can be difficult. The best candidates are those who are involved in the community and in a small city that means there will be potential conflicts of interest. To eliminate successful and connected people from serving is a disservice to the public but all potential conflicts must be thoroughly explored so there’s no appearance of improper behavior.
If there’s any silver lining to this situation it’s that all our area city councils, county boards and other panels have seen what can go wrong when conflicts of interest are not taken seriously. This type of situation can be handled in a better way and we expect they will in the future.