Attorneys Warn Councilwoman of Potential Conflict of Interest

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Des Moines Councilman Joe Gatto says fellow council member Chris Hensley had no business voting on a tax abatement plan earlier this month because of a conflict of interest.

Hensley pushed for a six-month extension for several projects outside the targeted area. The councilwoman also works for Midwest Housing Equity Group, a syndication firm that purchases and reinvests tax credits for developers.

“She handles financing, tax syndicator for three out of the five projects that we voted on,” Gatto said.

Hensley disagrees.

“I have a legal opinion from our city legal, indicating I do not have a conflict of interest. And again, remember we’re voting on an amendment to the urban revitalization plan. We are not voting on projects,” she told Channel 13.

The City Council voted to release that legal opinion, which says there is no conflict of interest. However, it does offer a warning for Hensley.

“There are significant factors due to your MHEG board membership and consultant contract that may create the appearance of a conflict or the potential for a conflict that should be taken into serious consideration in determining your participation in discussion of and voting on IFA applications."

The legal opinion recommended that Hensley abstain from voting in order to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Hensley went on to introduce the measure and cast the deciding vote.