On February 6, residents, in greater number than usual, went to City Hall to attend a special City Council meeting at which only one item was on the agenda: a proposed three-month moratorium on clear-cutting of trees without a permit. Tree preservation has been an agenda item for countless residents as more and more mature and stately trees have been lost because of development and severe weather.
Those in the audience at City Hall that night expressed fervent support of a tree law with teeth, one that would allow reasonable development but not the unreasonable removal of trees.
What most residents did not know was that the three Councilmembers not in attendance — Lori Fontanes, Bill Henderson, and Josh Nathan — felt strongly that the meeting was called in haste because trees were about to be removed from a property adjacent to Mayor Josh Cohn’s home. Those Councilmembers appealed to the Board of Ethics, which met and responded with a confidential advisory opinion on February 13 that was released to the media tonight.
The Board of Ethics determined that “the actions taken by the City Council leading up to the emergency meeting on February 6 did violate the City Code because the primary reason the meeting was called was to protect the trees on Turf Avenue immediately adjacent to the Mayor’s property.” Further, the board’s opinion is that “any action taken by any of the Councilmembers in furtherance at the February 15 Council meeting would be cloaked with an appearance of a conflict or an impression of impropriety that would violate the City Code.”
The full opinion of the Board of Ethics follows.