City Attorney: Planning Chairman Not Conflicted 

Architect Bob Mills' clients and his position as chairman of the city's Planning Commission present no legal conflict of interest, according to an opinion released by the Richmond City Attorney's office Jan. 25.

Comments that Mills made came under scrutiny earlier this month when he criticized the draft of the downtown master plan for "sticking its nose" into the business of Virginia Commonwealth University and the state, both clients of Mills' firm, Commonwealth Architects. He requested the opinion after the Jan. 21 Planning Commission meeting.

Mills says he abstains from voting on matters relating to his clients, but when it comes to discussing the land-holding of those same clients, he says it's his duty as chair of the commission to fully analyze and discuss all aspects of the plan.

Although the city's master plan includes recommendations for state-owned buildings, including those on the VCU campus, the plan has no legal authority over state-owned property. Therefore, there is no conflict of interest that bars Mills from voting on the master plan, the city attorney's office concludes.

Community Development Director Rachel Flynn says she never thought Mills' situation reached the level of a legal conflict of interest, but says the problem of perception remains.

"There's so much else in the plan to talk about," she says. "If you truly have to serve all the citizens, just do the right thing when it comes to those issues … just stay out of the discussion."

  • Read the full legal opinion.


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