Officials must be open about conflicts

Like it or not, elected officials live in a fishbowl. By putting their name on the ballot, they have asked for the trust of voters. In exchange, the dealings of elected officials must be above reproach.

Lacey Councilman John Darby has cast himself in a negative light because he is trying to purchase land and build a new home on property Darby and his colleagues on the council are considering annexing to the city of Lacey. It's a case of poor timing, but Darby does not appear to have broken any law.

There are some troubling facts associated with this case.

It's troubling that Darby has a different recollection of what happened at a council subcommittee meeting involving the annexation than what is reflected in the official minutes of that committee meeting.

It's also troubling that Darby insists he informed all of his colleagues of his potential conflict, but three of the City Council members have no recollection of such a conversation.

The lesson here, for all elected officials, is that appearance of fairness is of upmost importance. Conflicts between official duties and private lives are a reality. What's important is that officials declare those conflicts openly and honestly early in the process, then back completely away from any official interaction or decision.