Weekend before last, Production Monkeys boss and Mayor Travis Schaunaman used his weekly mayor’s column in the Aberdeen American News to urge the public to support his advertising company’s bid to redesign the city’s logo and slogan.
AAN’s editors say Mayor Schuanaman has a conflict of interest and should withdraw from the bidding for that contract:
Still, it’d not fair to ask those representing the agencies to pick among a group of bidders that includes a company owned by a city leader. Even if they don’t know which proposal came from which designer, they might be able to tell based on past experience or what they know about each bidder. Even the possibility of exposing the people who have to make the call to such pressure doesn’t seem right.
…There’s an old adage newspaper people love. Don’t just avoid overt conflicts of interest, but even the appearance of a conflict. There’s no use in giving people reason to be suspicious when it can be avoided. That seems to apply in this case.
We hope the mayor negotiates this curve smoothly and rethinks his position even if this conflict isn’t overt [editorial, “Mayor’s Company Should Bow out of Rebranding Effort,” Aberdeen American News, 2019.08.24].
The editorial notes that Mayor Schaunaman says there’s no conflict, in part because the rebranding project was “in the works prior to my election as mayor.” That is technically true: the Request for Proposals went out on June 4, the day of the election. But Schaunaman knew he was headed for power that night. He’d have known there’d be a conflict of interest when the Chamber and its partners considered bids after the initial deadline of June 28, and he knew full well there was a conflict of interest in using his mayoral column to promote his company’s bid on August 17.
The AAN editors have it right: Mayor Schaunaman needs to pulls his company from this bid for City Promotion Fund dollars immediately.