David Rubenstein joined the Sandy Springs Planning Commission in 2006 and he’s also been the city’s real estate broker since 2006.
Now some members of Sandy Springs City Council want to know whether his service is a conflict of interest. Rubenstein has been representing the city in various real estate transactions throughout his time on the Planning Commission. He’s also been asked to continue in that role as the city looks at acquiring property for its downtown development plans.
During the Jan. 15 city council meeting, Councilman Tibby DeJulio and Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny asked city Attorney Wendell Willard to research the question, and city council decided to delay reappointing Rubenstein until Willard provides an answer. City council will likely take up the appointment again in February.
Rubenstein declined to comment about his work for the city and questions about conflicts of interest.
“Whatever the city council determines is appropriate, I support,” he said.
It’s not clear how much Rubenstein has profited from his work as the city’s broker. He represented the city in 2008 when it paid $8 million for the old Target property at 235 Johnson Ferry Road, and records show he made $80,000 on the deal. He also represented the city when it negotiated the lease for its current office space at Morgan Falls Office Park, according to news archives.
Whether Rubenstein will continue to serve on the Planning Commission is not certain. Members of the Planning Commission do not receive payment for their work, but could potentially be asked to consider matters where they have a conflict of interest.
Willard said he has told council members there’s a provision in the city’s ethics ordinance that limits a public official’s ability to do business with the city.
“Under the wording of the ordinance, he is able to serve on the commission,” Willard said. “He would be limited by the ordinance to work he can do for the city, not to exceed $2,500.”
Section 2-115 of the city’s ethics code states, “The city is prohibited from entering into any contract with a business in which a public servant or a public servant’s partner in interest has a controlling interest involving services or property of value in excess of $2,500.”
Planning Commission Chairman Lee Duncan said Rubenstein’s work as the city’s broker hasn’t been an issue for the Planning Commission.
“David has been very, very forthcoming on everything that’s come before us,” Duncan said. “I think he’s recused himself once or twice. I certainly don’t consider there to be any ethics issues.”
While Rubenstein has served as both a broker and planning commission member since the city opened for business, DeJulio said he only recently decided to ask if that’s a conflict of interest.
“It just really occurred to me that he’s done a lot of business with the city and whether this was proper or not,” DeJulio said. “You know we’ve tried to keep all kinds of conflicts out of the city and I just was inquiring with our council whether this was proper.”
Meinzen-McEnerny said the issue has bothered her since Rubenstein joined the Planning Commission in 2006.
“I certainly totally supported Tibby’s initiating it and actually wish I’d brought it up much earlier myself,” she said. “I think it’s important for the public to know that the people that are on these boards are truly independent as public servants.”