Alan Yost is not in violation of the Virginia State and Local Government Conflicts of Interest Act, according to Greene County Commonwealth’s Attorney Edwin Consolvo’s recent legal opinion.
After several residents brought up during public meetings their opinion that the director of the Economic Development and Tourism department for Greene County may have violated state laws, Greene County Administrator Mark Taylor sought the opinion from Consolvo.
Taylor asked whether Yost’s role on the Greene County Tourism Council and serving on the board for Greene Commons created a conflict of interest. He also asked whether the Special Use Permit for tourist lodging held by Yost’s daughter created a conflict of interest with his position in the county.
The Conflicts of Interest Act § 2.2-3100 “prohibits employees from receiving gifts above a certain dollar amount, benefiting from contractual relationships with outside contractors or any other acts or situations that would allow the employee to benefit from their position with the government. Under (the act), these prohibitions extend to ‘immediate family’ of the local government employee.”
“In the request for this opinion, it was stated on several occasion that it would be advisable for Mr. Yost to step down as a voting member for both the Tourism Council and Greene Commons,” Consolvo notes in his opinion. “The request further suggests that these groups should amend their bylaws to affect this change. As there is currently no indication of a conflict of interest in these matters, and as this is purely a policy decision to be made by these groups, I take no position as to these recommendations.”
Consolvo said as the Tourism Council is an advisory body to the Greene County Board of Supervisors; as to its preference of how Transient Occupancy Tax revenues should be spent, the Tourism Council itself has no authority to make decisions or appropriate funds. The recommendations to the supervisors are not a binding agreement that the Board of Supervisors will spend the funding in that fashion.
Greene County has a 5% Transient Occupancy Tax that is placed on overnight stays in the county. Virginia code requires 3% of the Transient Occupancy Tax revenues be spent on the promotion of tourism. The remaining 2% of the revenues goes into the county’s general fund.
Consolvo noted that Yost does not profit from his involvement with the either the Tourism Council or Greene Commons.
Greene Commons is a “non-profit corporation that exists to promote and operate the pavilion and bandstand behind the Greene County Administration Building” in Stanardsville, Consolvo notes in his opinion. There is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Greene County Board of Supervisors that the group must give supervisors an annual financial update. Supervisors provide a yearly donation/sponsorship of $10,000 from the Transient Occupancy Tax revenues to Greene Commons, he said.
Consolvo said that in Yost’s role as Director of Economic Development and Tourism, it is part of his position to promote Greene County and his participation with the Greene Commons Board “appears to be part of that role.”
Consolvo did note that as Greene Commons does award contracts for various services, if Yost or a member of his immediate family tried to obtain a contract with the group, there could be a conflict of interest. The Conflicts of Interest Act defines immediate family to be a spouse and anyone who resides in the same household as the employee and who is a dependent of the employee.
“Mr. Yost’s daughter is not an immediate family member as defined under this article of the Code of Virginia,” Consolvo said. “As she is not an immediate family member as defined, there is no prohibition on any of her activities under (the Conflicts of Interest Act), nor do her activities constitute a conflict of interest for Mr. Yost.”