JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — The investigation into a possible conflict of interest surrounding how a local development group distributed a slew of American Rescue Plan Act funding continues.
On March 1st the Jamestown Local Development Corporation approved grants to a slew of local businesses, some of which were owned by family members of those on the committee’s board.
Councilwoman Kim Eckland, and GOP Mayoral Candidate, tells WNY News Now that members of the JLDC board had no clue that allocating funds to those businesses would violate their by-laws.
“We met again last week, and were handed some information,“ explained Councilwoman Eckland. “Unfortunately I can’t remember ever receiving any copy of the by-laws. So I am reviewing that, as were other members of the JLDC has to review that.”
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist believes it’s hard to avoid a conflict like this, when living in such a small community.
“We’re a fairly small community,“ said Mayor Sundquist. “We might be the largest city, but the reality is that typically someone somewhere owns a business, and you probably know their mother, or cousin, or uncle right. And we’re just trying to get money into their hands, so they can keep the people employed, they can continue to make renovations to those buildings that are starting to fall down, and they’re able to really contribute as a small business to the vibrancy of Jamestown’s economy.”
For members like Eckland, she feels that the board voted on the allocation with no malice intent.
“We all voted, out in the open, everything was conducted in the open,“ stated Councilwoman Eckland. “It’s just a matter of if we made a mistake, we need to learn from that mistake, and we need to move on and grow. It was not done in ill-faith, it was not done behind a closed door.”
As for what’s next, the City of Jamestown is working to determine if giving out those funds did indeed lead to a conflict of interest violation.
“We’re still working with our federal partners to try to solve those issues,“ explained Mayor Sundquist.