MOBILE – A group of local residents have filed complaints against Mobile Planning Commission Chairman Jay Watkins and attorney Doug Anderson over what the complaints call a “conflict of interest” the two have concerning aboveground petroleum storage tanks along Mobile River.
Thayer Dodd, a local environmental activist filed an Alabama Ethics Commission complaint against Watkins and an Alabama Bar Association complaint against Anderson, claiming both had failed to recuse themselves from participating in votes and discussions related to the subject, despite business ties to companies operating the tanks.
“I spent all summer researching this,” Dodd said. “This is not a frivolous action.”
The complaint is based on Watkins’ relationship with a company called Blakely Logistics, LLC, Dodd wrote in the complaint. The complaint contends Watkins was a registered agent of the company, which was a subsidiary of Arc Holdings LLC, the complaint alleges. It states he incorporated the company in Alabama and prepared the certificate of formation, as well as its articles of organization.
While an agent of the company in October 2010, Watkins voted on an Arc application for additional storage tanks, according to the complaint.
“Mr. Watkins was present, asked questions and voted for the project,” the complaint reads.
In 2012, and while still an agent for Arc Watkins approved a Gulf Coast Asphalt Company application, which the complaint states was a related part to Arc. The complaint states Watkins resigned his position as registered agent in June 2012.
Watkins declined to comment on the complaint, saying he didn’t wish to try this in the media. He said he would argue his case in front of the commission.
The ABA complaint filed by Dodd against Anderson is similar in nature to the ethics
complaint against Watkins. The complaint claims Anderson failed to recuse himself from discussion of the tanker issue despite having had a relationship with Gulf Coast Asphalt Company, which is now a subsidiary of Arc.
The complaint states that in 2012 Burr Forman, the firm of Anderson and Ricardo Woods, who is now city attorney, defended GCAC in a lawsuit filed by Cooper Marine and Timberland. Anderson also represented GCAC at a 2010 Planning Commission meeting, according to the complaint.
In addition, the complaint states that Anderson was listed as the agent for Arc
Terminals Mobile Holdings, LLC in Alabama and Delaware. Anderson was also listed as the agent during Arc Terminals Mobile Holdings’ February 2013 acquisition of GCAC assets. He was then switched to GCAC’s agent in April 2013 and remains so today, the complaint reads.
In November 2013, Mayor Sandy Stimpson appointed Anderson as Planning Commission attorney. That same month Arc Terminals Holdings removed Anderson as an agent.
Anderson said neither he nor his firm currently have a business relationship with either company and haven’t since he was appointed as Planning Commission attorney. As proof of this, he said he and Woods represented the city in a suit against Arc for the illegal storage of sulfuric acid in riverside tanks.
In a phone interview, Dodd said being involved in that suit doesn’t absolve him of what the complaint alleges.
In the complaint, Dodd also brings up concerns over Watkins’ and Anderson’s involvement in a Planning Commission subcommittee tasked with amending the city’s current zoning ordinance to deal with restrictions on storage tanks on the west side of Mobile River.
Dodd said it was strange Anderson was tasked with putting together the amendment when normally planning staff members would. Stimpson spokesman George Talbot wrote in an email message that it wasn’t out of the ordinary to have the board’s attorney draft an ordinance. For example, he wrote, the City Council’s attorney Jim Rossler regularly writes ordinances for them.
As for the amended ordinance, the Planning Commission will announce the dates and times of public hearings scheduled on the ordinance at its next meeting on Thursday, October 15 at 2 p.m.
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