HARLINGEN — The city commission’s new majority might be holding off on plans to consider removing two prominent Valley International Airport board members stemming from concerns of possible perceptions of conflicts of interest, City Commissioner Frank Puente said.

On Thursday, Puente said he withdrew his name from a Sept. 15 meeting agenda calling for commissioners to consider the removal of airport board members Bobby Farris and Nick Consiglio.

Now, it is unclear whether another commissioner will join Commissioner Richard Uribe to call for the proposal’s consideration during next week’s meeting.

Puente said he would reconsider calling for the consideration after the city hires a new city attorney.

“I want to meet with the new legal team for their opinion,” he said.

Earlier this month, commissioners postponed action on a proposal to remove at least one airport board member stemming from concerns of possible perceptions of conflict of interest.

Puente said the concerns stem from Farris’ and Consiglio’s employment at Texas Regional Bank because Chairman Michael Scaief serves on the board of Sun Valley Aviation, an airport tenant.

At the bank, Farris, a former city commissioner, serves as vice president while Consiglio, a city Planning and Zoning Commission board member, works as marketing director.

Meanwhile, Sun Valley Aviation has filed a lawsuit against the airport, arguing it stopped the company from building a third hangar.

“It doesn’t look good on the surface,” Puente said, referring to possible perceptions of conflicts of interest. “It all comes down to the appearance of conflict of interest.”

Consiglio stands by his record on airport board

On Thursday, Consiglio said his employment at the bank and his role on the airport board do not create a conflict of interest.

“I have served on the airport board since 2014 with zero issues or concerns raised,” Consiglio stated Thursday.

“I have a voting record that supports all of the great successes and development we have had at VIA.  My eight-year voting record includes voting with the majority of the board on all issues, which means voting in the best interest of VIA. I have zero interest in any tenant, therefore have zero conflict, perceived or otherwise. My voting record speaks for itself and is available to the public to review.”

Farris, who was out of town, didn’t respond to messages requesting comment.

City attorney finds no conflict of interest

During a city commission meeting last week, Assistant City Attorney Allison Bastion told commissioners Farris’ and Consiglio’s roles as airport board members and bank employees didn’t constitute conflicts of interest, Puente said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Chris Boswell said concerns over Farris’ and Consiglio’s possible perceptions of conflicts of interest are baseless.

“I don’t know of any airport board member who has any interest in Sun Valley Aviation or any airport board member who has any interest in real property,” he said.

Boswell said the concerns over possible perceptions of conflicts of interest don’t meet criteria set forth in Texas Local Government Code Chapter 171.

“It doesn’t fit,” he said.

According to the law, “a person has a substantial interest in a business entity if the person owns 10 percent or more of the voting stock or shares of the business entity or owns either 10 percent or more or $15,000 or more of the fair market value of the business entity; or funds received by the person from the business entity exceed 10 percent of the person’s gross income for the previous year; or a person has a substantial interest in real property if the interest is an equitable or legal ownership with a fair market value of $2,500 or more.”

Airport board appointments on election ballot

For weeks, the commission’s new majority has questioned the way airport board members are appointed.

In July, commissioners voted to call a May 7 election to let voters decide whether they want to revise the City Charter to change the way appointments are made to the prominent board.

For about 15 years, the charter has given the mayor sole authority to appoint the nine-member board.

Now, the commission’s new majority wants voters to decide whether to allow commissioners, along with the mayor, to appoint members as part of a move to add “diversity” to the board.

On the May 7 election ballot, commissioners are proposing a seven-member board, with commissioners appointing five members while the mayor appoints two.

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