Three city employees are returning from administrative leave with new titles and docked salaries this week after an investigation determined they failed to address a conflict of interest in commissioning a $100,000 public art project.
The investigation examined the city’s selection process as it sought to add murals to the interior of the State Street parking garage. A report says Parking General Manager Mark Lyons should have disclosed that an artist selected as a finalist for that project was his son-in-law.
Following the investigation, the city demoted Lyons, Senior Planner Clifford Smith and Neighborhood and Development Services General Manager David Smith for violating ethics and conflict-of-interest policies. Clifford and David Smith returned to work today, and Lyons will return tomorrow.
On April 12, the Public Art Committee met to determine its favored proposal for the garage artwork. The advisory board was deadlocked between two choices — one of which was submitted by Mark Krucke, Lyons’ son-in-law.
As the board tried to work through the tie, Lyons spoke critically of the other finalist’s proposal, suggesting it would create logistical challenges. After he was done speaking, a board member volunteered to change his vote. The group ultimately recommended that the City Commission select Krucke’s proposal.
An internal city report concluded that Lyons unduly influenced the selection process.
“When it became clear that Krucke was a finalist, Lyons should have gone to his supervisor to report the potential conflict of interest and should have refrained from involvement in any further PAC deliberations,” the report states.
In an interview with investigators, Lyons said he mentioned his relationship with Krucke to David Smith at the beginning of the year. He said his understanding was that it was not a conflict of interest, because he would not be voting on the artwork. He also said he believed the other top concept, proposed by artist Michael Parker, was inappropriate for the specifications of the project.
The report determined Lyons should have notified his immediate supervisor about the potential conflict of interest, and that he should have completed city forms designed to address conflicts of interest. Lyons failed to take either of these steps. The report also said Clifford and David Smith should have alerted others about the conflict of interest.
The city has demoted Lyons from parking general manager to parking manager. Clifford Smith has been demoted to planner, and David Smith has been demoted to chief planner. The city is still working on a new reporting structure for these employees, according to city spokeswoman Jan Thornburg.
Lyons’ demotion comes with a 10% reduction in salary. The city is reducing Clifford and David Smith’s salary by 7%.
Going forward, the city will make all employees take ethics training every two years, Thornburg said. The city will also make sure conflict-of-interest disclosure forms are included as part of future public art procurement efforts.
The City Commission will discuss the State Street art project at a June 5 meeting.