10 Sep Hinton: Evans Knew About Nay Aug Deal
Pat Hinton’s lease of a Nay Aug Park building to open a coffee shop does not violate the city’s ethics code, according to his cousin attorney Timothy Hinton. Hinton, the city’s licensing, inspection, and codes manager, has been criticized by Councilman Bill Gaughan for appearing to violate ethics provisions that bar employees from using public property for personal benefit. The process, attorney Hinton argues in a letter to Gaughan, was transparent. So transparent that Gaughan’s colleague, Councilman Wayne Evans, was briefed multiple times on the matter and even visited the restroom that the city manager wants to turn into a side business.
According to the August 20th letter, first obtained by the Times-Tribune, “Mr. Hinton met with Councilman Wayne Evans at the former comfort station and discussed his plans.” Evans did not object to the idea and did not see any conflict with the city’s ethics code. A successful realtor, Evans joined city council in 2014. In addition to the site visit, he was present when the city’s recreation authority discussed awarding the contract to Hinton.
Attorney Hinton disputes City Council solicitor Amil Minora’s conclusion that his cousin’s agreement violates the city ethics code.
Minora wrote, “Section 6-16(a)(b) [of the city ethics code] prohibits engaging in financial or other personal interests or private employment which is incompatible with the discharge of ones duties. Section 6-18 prohibits an employee from using any public property for personal benefit or profit in accordance with policies promulgated by the mayor.”
Hinton did not specifically refute Minora’s citation. Instead, he referred to Section 6-17 of the code and argued that the ownership of a gourmet coffee shop is not “incompatible with the proper discharge of his official duties.”
Even if the award of the contract did violate the city’s ethics code, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Ethics Act supersedes local ordinances and provides no clear prohibition of Hinton obtaining the contract. The generous terms of the lease grant Hinton the first two years free and $250 per year afterward.
As reported in the Times-Tribune, Evans denies endorsing the terms of the deal. While he agrees with the concept, he wrote in an e-mail to Hinton and his colleagues, “But never did I indicate then, or in any subsequent conversations that I had with Mr. Hinton, that I would be supportive of him as the operator, or of any city employee being the operator, of that location.”