The Economic Development Commission voted in its new chairman on Monday, May 12, after current Chairman Ethan Tucker relinquished the role due to time constraints in his personal and professional life.
Getting the majority of the votes, EDC member Jerry Dauterive will head the seven-member commission as it continues to try to improve the economic vitality of doing business in Bristol.
But fellow EDC member, George Burman, abstained from voting after voicing his opposition to Mr. Dauterive’s election. Because Mr. Dauterive is employed by Roger Williams University, Mr. Burman questioned whether a conflict of interest would adversely affect the commission.
“I would have a great difficulty seeing a representative of Roger Williams University (as chairman) because it represents a huge conflict of interest,” Mr. Burman said.
Other EDC members wholly supported Mr. Dauterive, citing his position as the Dean of the university’s school of business, as well as his expertise gained as a published author of books and articles, as accomplishments that support their selection of him as the chairman.
Mr. Burman’s concern focused on the chairman-elect’s ability to act objectively should the issue of business taxation be discussed since Roger Williams University is a non-profit entity that makes payments in lieu of taxes to Bristol.
“I think there’s a legal and an ethical point here,” Mr. Burman said.
Mr. Tucker assured Mr. Burman and the commission members that he already discussed that issue with the town solicitor was told that Mr. Dauterive can hold the position without conflict. To alleviate any concerns, Mr. Tucker said he will seek a second opinion from the town solicitor.
“I will request the town solicitor to rule on the ethical standing of Jerry as the chair,” he said.
Mr. Burman abstained until such a ruling is brought back to the commission.