Quinn faces conflicts | SteamboatToday.com

Quinn faces conflicts

Business relations could limit councilman's influence

Brandon Gee

City Councilman Jon Quinn has stepped down twice in past weeks for items concerning The Atira Group's projects in Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat Springs — Councilman Jon Quinn will not have a say in some of the largest and most complex developments that will come before the Steamboat Springs City Council in coming months. — Councilman Jon Quinn will not have a say in some of the largest and most complex developments that will come before the Steamboat Springs City Council in coming months.

— Councilman Jon Quinn will not have a say in some of the largest and most complex developments that will come before the Steamboat Springs City Council in coming months.

Quinn, owner of Northwest Data Services, provides telephone and other technical services at the Oak Street offices of The Atira Group, developers of the Ski Time Square, Thunderhead Lodge and Edgemont projects at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. Although Quinn initially didn’t plan to step down from City Council for items concerning Atira’s projects, he has done so – or has been asked to do so by fellow council members – both times The Atira Group has come before City Council in recent weeks.

“I wouldn’t have run for the position if I didn’t think I could be an unbiased party,” Quinn said last month when explaining why he didn’t think he would need to step down. “It’s a small town, and we’re all kind of tied in together.”

Garrett Simon, a vice president of development for Atira, agreed that Quinn would not let his business relationship with the company color his judgment.

“I don’t see a conflict of interest,” Simon said before a City Council meeting at which the Edgemont application was discussed. “He will completely forget about what he does from 8 to 5 when he goes up there. If Jon votes no against one of our projects, is he going to keep doing our phones? Absolutely.”

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In the weeks since those comments, however, Quinn said he has decided it is better to remain beyond reproach, especially after an election campaign that saw him and others accused of being “in developers’ pockets.”

“I do enough work for (The Atira Group), that I would rather not have any questions of impropriety,” Quinn said Wednesday. “It just made sense to err on the side of safe.”

Judgment call

Conflicts of interest were a topic at a City Council retreat Saturday. Council President Loui Antonucci acknowledged the knotty nature of Quinn’s situation, and City Attorney Tony Lettunich noted, “There isn’t a litmus test.” City Manager Alan Lanning said that, in his experience, officials who have spent their energies justifying why they shouldn’t step down, rather than just doing so, have “gotten themselves in trouble.”

Together with staff, council members came to a solution similar to the one Quinn has described, one that puts a consideration of public perception above all else.

“Perception is just as important as an actual,” Councilman Steve Ivancie said. “If there’s ever any situation, disclose and step away.”

Quinn has said he works “for half of Steamboat,” so his influence could be severely limited if he steps down every time a client comes before City Council. Quinn doesn’t expect that to happen, however. Although he said he would always disclose his relationships, he doesn’t think the type of circumstances that have compelled him to steer clear of Atira’s projects will exist very often.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be a judgment call on my part,” Quinn said. “If the answer’s even a maybe, I’ll probably step down.”

Quinn said he was not frustrated to be missing out on some of the biggest projects coming before City Council.

“I have great confidence in the rest of the council,” Quinn said. “I’m more concerned that I’d be letting my fellow council members down by not being able to participate.”

And, at the very least, Quinn won’t be stepping down on the biggest project of them all.

“I’m very pleased to tell you I’ve never done any business with Danny Mulcahy,” said Quinn, referring to the project manager of Steamboat 700. The 700-acre development west of Steamboat could bring more than 2,000 homes to a site that developers hope to have annexed into the city.