David Sloviter: Planning Board chair has conflict of interest

Thursday, September 23, 2021

I must object to the selection of Doug Marshall as chair of the Amherst Planning Board. In fact, I object to his presence on the Planning Board at all. He holds a key position in planning at UMass and therefore has a clear conflict of interest in holding such an important position in the town of Amherst.

In what universe does Town Council operate that this can occur? How can the leadership of our town fail to recognize the political and ethical problems with a person occupying similar positions in two organizations that often have competing interests? It is incredible to me that this conflict has not disqualified him automatically.

The Planning Board is much too important to allow it to be so influenced by UMass and its interests. We must have independence. The Planning Board is already too influenced by the interests of developers and, with Mr. Marshall as chair, the people of Amherst will have no voice at all.

If Mr. Marshall is so civic-minded that he wants to devote time and energy to our town, there are many other roles he can play. If he has selected the Planning Board as his area of interest, it’s reasonable to suspect that it is to further his UMass position. Or he can just do his job for UMass and let Amherst make its independent decisions. But he cannot serve two masters in the same role. This is like a police chief on the mob payroll.

I keep hoping that our town leadership will recognize that the interests of the town of Amherst and UMass are not only not the same but are often in conflict. We need leadership that will stand up for our town and stand up to UMass when called for.

I urge Town Council to correct this obvious lapse of judgment and ethics without delay. It makes the town government appear corrupt.

David Sloviter