It's unfortunate that Payson Councilman Robert Henley, an intelligent contributor to council proceedings in many respects, is ethically tone-deaf when it comes to the airport and his evident conflicts of interest.
Whether Mr. Henley's refusal to withhold his vote on these issues is driven by arrogance of self-righteousness is unclear. Either way, it represents a serious blemish on his public service.
Mr. Henley's defensive Roundup guest comment (July 27) fails to reveal that:
- Behind the scenes, he joined CANIT representatives in pressuring town staff (in) The Door Stop.
- At least three of the lead complainants against The Door Stop live on his small cul-de-sac, adjacent to the airport and the industrial park;
- He was witnessed openly urging the CANIT members on, right outside the council chambers at one of the sound ordinance meetings;
- He ignored two separate requests, conveyed to Town Attorney Sam Streichman, that he recuse himself, due to these evident conflicts and his past activities.
Payson councilors have routinely recused themselves, due to familiarity with one or another party to an issue before the Council -- as have Councilor Tim Fruth and Mayor Barbara Brewer most recently. At the very least, they have sidestepped any matter where they had potential financial interests.
That said, how should we interpret Mr. Henley's statement to ADOT representatives at an Airport Advisory Board meeting two years ago?
"...You start getting defensive when your livelihood or your home-life is being threatened because of some statements made by either the FAA or ADOT, saying: ‘Close that off and to heck with them.' I have a heck of a lot of money invested up there and three airplanes sitting in a hangar, and so that's obviously somewhat of a threat to me and to others that are out there as well."
As a councilor, Mr. Henley, under the contentious council of former Mayor Ken Murphy, engineered 4-3 approvals for financing a new $1.9 million airport hangar and, against the recommendations of staff, for extension of a lapsed lease of the airport fuel concession. Reportedly, he has even opposed the removal of trees, recommended by the FAA, on airport property near his home.
Mr. Henley may not know when to recuse himself from voting on such issues, but the Payson public knows. In our recent survey on the Door Stop issue, 95 percent of respondents said he should, while a mere 2 percent said "No" and 3 percent were undecided. After that survey, we publicly asked: "Will They Listen?" The other council members did. Mr. Henley did not.
Don Crowley, Co-chair, Citizens for Better Payson Government