Colorado Springs businessman Tim Leigh, who had been appointed outright to the new Citizens Commission on Ownership and Governance of Memorial Health System, has resigned from the panel amid revelations that his wife works for Memorial Hospital.
Leigh was asked to resign Friday by Mayor Lionel Rivera and Councilman Darryl Glenn, according to an e-mail obtained by The Gazette.
“We discussed the important work that the commission is tasked with; and that there can be ‘no hint’ of a conflict of interest,” Leigh said in a resignation letter sent via e-mail Sunday.
“While it’s true that my wife works as a part-time employee at the hospital (she’s an RN in the NICU who has held that position for nearly 30 years), her employment would have no bearing on my ability (to) actively participate without any bias on the commission. Frankly, I have more integrity than the inference,” Leigh said.
“Nonetheless, I respectfully withdraw from membership on the commission so the commission may proceed without any appearance of taint,” he said.
Leigh, who filed papers last week to run for Colorado Springs mayor in April 2011, was among three applicants who were selected for the 11-member commission outright through secret polling among council members.
Sixty people applied to serve on the commission, and the mayor had asked council members to submit their top 10 choices in rank order.
Leigh, Stephen Hyde and B.J. Scott appeared on the lists of five or more council members, making them automatic shoo-ins. The Gazette filed an open-records request for the council members’ top 10 lists, but the city government denied it, saying the documents were part of the “deliberative process.”
The applicants who appeared on the lists of two or more council members had to go through interviews. One of the questions Glenn posed to all of them was whether they had any family or friends who worked at Memorial.
In his application for appointment, Leigh stated he was “unbiased and would carefully consider all options (and) use common sense to help in (the) decision-making process.”
Leigh did not disclose in the application or accompanying biographical information that his wife, Lise, worked at Memorial. The application doesn’t ask applicants to disclose any potential conflicts of interest.
In an interview this afternoon, Leigh said his wife’s employment at Memorial “just didn’t seem like a big deal.”
“It didn’t even occur to me that it would be an issue,” he said.
Leigh said he would have been an “exceptional” commission member because of his business background and longevity in the community and that his wife’s ties to Memorial wouldn’t have affected his ability to be unbiased.
“It’s not that there would have been a conflict; it’s the perception of the conflict,” he said. “I personally have enough integrity to have made a decision that’s better for the city without regard to my wife’s employment or not employment. I think the mayor and the council acknowledge that. What they’re trying to do is to have that commission have no appearance of any taint, so when (the commission makes) a recommendation, nobody can really throw stones at it and say, ‘Well, his wife works there.’ I get that, and I’m fine with that. At the end of the day, it is the right decision.”
The fact that Leigh’s wife works at Memorial was first revealed in the City Desk blog Friday.
Glenn said Memorial CEO Larry McEvoy made the council aware of the relationship the same day.
“I immediately raised an objection,” Glenn said, adding that he was going to make his objections known at the next City Council meeting.
“Already going into this people are concerned about whether or not we are actually going to evaluate this fair and openly (and) make sure that there is community input,” he said.
“Some people feel that there is already a predetermined outcome,” he added. “We don’t want any distractions. This committee is way too important, and we want to make sure that they’re able to do the work efficiently and effectively without any distractions. That’s my primary objective.”
Leigh, who has been meeting with city managers as part of his mayoral campaign, said he met with City Attorney Pat Kelly on Friday and that his appointment to the commission “just came up in the conversation.”
“She assured me there was no conflict because there was no financial benefit to me for being on the committee,” he said.
Kelly could not be reached for comment. City Hall is closed today for the Presidents Day holiday.
The mayor has not returned a call seeking comment.