Marina District foes want state probe of Murray

SANDUSKY A Sandusky citizens' group is calling for a closer look at who stands to gain from the new waves of waterfront devel
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

A Sandusky citizens' group is calling for a closer look at who stands to gain from the new waves of waterfront development.

The Citizens for Responsive Government filed a request with the Ohio Ethics Commission for an investigation as to whether newly elected Ex officio Mayor Dennis Murray has a conflict of interest in matters involving downtown central business district economic development projects.

"After extensive study of city documents pertaining to economic impacts of the Marina District at Battery Park Project relative to downtown, we have come to the conclusion Commissioner Murray and his immediate family will financially benefit from the project through increased property values and increased revenues associated with a family owned marina operation," wrote Citizens for Responsive Government President Jack Sprau and group spokesman Tim Schwanger in a press release dated Jan. 3.

Murray and his family own the Murray and Murray law firm and Dock of the Bay Marina along Shoreline Drive between the Paper District project site and proposed Marina District.

According to city records, however, the issue was already resolved. Last January, city Law Director Don Icsman completed an analysis of the subject.

Icsman referred to precedents set by previous decisions made by the commission, and concluded there was no conflict of interest in Murray's situation.

"This is something that I had discussed with Mr. Icsman before I ran (for city commission) and regularly as issues have unfolded," Murray said.

"An earlier informal Ohio Ethics Commission ruling advised Commissioner Dan Kaman refrain from discussing and voting on the Marina Project because of his interest in property near the Marina District project. Commissioner Murray and his immediate family own offices and a marina business with the Downtown Business District," according to Sprau and Schwanger. "It seems only fair and prudent that the same ethics standards be used for Commissioner Murray that were applied to determine Commissioner (Dan) Kaman's conflict of interest."

Icsman addressed this in his 2007 analysis, concluding Murray would not receive any selective, differential or disproportionate benefit as a result of the project than any other property owner or the city as whole. The property belonging to Kaman and his immediate family is next to the proposed project site.

A conflict would arise only if direct and definite benefit could be established, Icsman said.

"I have the same interest in seeing economic development proceed forward as anyone else," Murray said.

Paul Nick, chief investigative council for the Ohio Ethics Commission, said the commission cannot comment either way on investigations that may or may not be taking place.