One of the three questions E-City Beat recently sent to all of the Great Falls city commission candidates is the following:
Do you or any of your immediate family members, business partners, employer, or employees hold any positions, professional or volunteer, recent past or present, that would constitute a conflict of interest, or appearance thereof, for you while conducting city business as a commissioner? If so how would you deal with the potential conflict?
After publishing candidate Bruce Pollington’s response to this and the other questions we received this email from one of our readers.
After looking into the concerns raised in this email, I discovered the information to be accurate.
Following is an excerpt from the minutes of the October 18, 2016 city commission work session which Mr. Pollingtons wife, Roxanne Klose, attended on behalf of the Animal Foundation/Maclean Animal Adoption Center:
“Maclean Animal Adoption Center (MAAC) Board of Trustees members: President Roxanne Klose, Jeremiah Johnson, and Past President Owen Robinson, reviewed and discussed the attached PowerPoint presentation.
President Klose reported that the purpose of this meeting was to investigate the opportunity and ultimately establish a positive and beneficial collaboration between the City and MAAC. She discussed the mission of MAAC and the facility amenities.
Trustee Johnson discussed reasons the Board of Trustees of the MAAC sees in exploring collaboration, noting complementary areas of strength that could be combined. He reported that over $4.5 million dollars was raised in cash donations over the past 13 years to help build the MAAC facility. He further reported that the trustees prepared an analysis of the 2015 City Animal Shelter and MAAC financials and concluded that collaboration could add to the income category through fundraising and could reduce reliance on taxpayer dollars to fund Animal Shelter operations.
Past President Robinson commented that it is not part of the board’s proposal to request that the City take on debt. The board is asking the Commission to vote to instruct the City Manager to meet with MAAC representatives to work out and present a plan of collaboration within sixty (60) days. The board believes (1) the City should operate the MAAC facility with its employees; (2) the mortgage on the building should be paid off by the Animal Foundation, d/b/a the MAAC; and (3) everything else the City and board should collaborate on.”
And here is a television report from ABC FOX Montana covering the same meeting:
I then sent the following email to Mr. Pollington:
After we published your response to one of our questions, copied below, we received an email from one of our readers informing us that although you did mention your wife Roxanne’s employment at Easter Seals in your response, you did not include that she is a past president of the Animal Foundation. You also didn’t mention that along with Owen Robinson she went before a city commission work session in October 2016 to advocate for a taxpayer funded partnership between the city and the MacLean Animal Adoption Center.
For clarification purposes I’d like to ask a follow-up question: since the issue of a potential City of Great Falls/MCAAC partnership has been a serious topic and an issue of major public concern very recently and will almost certainly come up before the commission during your tenure if you’re elected, do you consider your wife’s previous involvement and advocacy in favor of the taxpayers being responsible for MCAAC operations to present a potential conflict of interest for you, and if so would you recuse yourself from any city commission votes on that issue?
Thank you for your commitment to our community.
Here is Pollingtons response to my request for clarification, with an inserted editors note:
In answer to your follow-up question referencing my wife’s previous association with MCAAC I offer the following information. I was remiss in not mentioning it in your earlier question regarding potential conflicts of interest.
My wife, Roxanne Klose, joined the Animal Foundation Board as part of her efforts to participate in the betterment of Great Falls. She was subsequently elected as president of that Board. I, too, occasionally volunteered at MAAC as a dog handler and trainer. In October of 2016 Roxanne participated in a proposal presentation to the City Commission Work Session. The Animal Foundation Board suggested that discussions be initiated between then MAAC and the City to explore the possibility of a collaborative agreement between the two entities. The goal of the agreement would be to improve animal care in our community and reduce associated costs. As I recall, the City declined that offer based largely on concerns about the more than one million dollars in outstanding MAAC construction debt.
One important correction to your follow-up question, I don’t believe that my wife nor anyone else from the Animal Foundation Board suggested that taxpayers should pay for MAAC operations. In addition, based on the July 2, 2019 discussion update presented at the Commission Work Session, I don’t believe anyone else is advocating that either.
(Editors note: from the ABC FOX Montana piece linked above –
‘Tuesday night the Animal Foundation’s board of trustees, who oversee the Maclean Animal Adoption Center, asked the Great Falls city commission to explore the possibility of combining their operations.
The trustees proposed that the city should take over operations of the facility, while the board would continue paying off $1.7 million dollars in loans that helped build it.
The board explained it relies solely on fundraising efforts to pay for daily operations.
Former President of the board Owen Robinson admitted that although it recently received a large estate to cover daily operations, it would still be difficult to continue operations without the city’s help.
“We never ever built the building with the idea of running it,” Robinson said.
The board’s current President Roxanne Klose agrees, saying that taxpayer money would help keep the facility afloat.’) emphasis added.
With the possibility of cooperative discussions off the table, Roxanne and the Foundation Board set about raising funds needed to retire the construction debt. If memory serves, they accomplished that task in January or February of 2018. On June 12 of 2018, Roxanne resigned from the MCAAC Board and I stopped serving as a volunteer at the facility so we could commit more time to other interests. Neither she nor I have had any interactions with staff or Board members at MCAAC since that time. Roxanne and I became aware that the City and MCAAC were once again exploring cooperative options when a discussion update was presented at the City Commission Work Session I attended on July 2, 2019. Neither she nor I have been approached for our opinions or participation in that process. Neither of us harbor any ill will nor any particular loyalties toward MCAAC.
As for any potential conflict of interest concerns should I get elected as a City Commissioner, my approach to the issue would be based on two factors. First, if the Mayor, Members of the Commission or City Attorney express conflict of interest concerns I would recuse myself from voting on the issue. Second, I would advocate for two vital elements if an agreement is proposed: That such an agreement offers improvements in animal adoption services and that it offers a reduction in taxpayer costs for those services.”
I appreciate Mr. Pollingtons prompt response to our original questions and to my request for clarification.