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Candidate for County Council President Thomas Kovach’s Work for Developers Poses a Serious Conflict of Interest




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jim Farrell 302/689.3281

January 5, 2011

Candidate for County Council President Thomas Kovach’s Work for Developers Poses a Serious Conflict of Interest

con·flict of in·ter·est

A term used to describe the situation in which a public official or fiduciary who, contrary to the obligation and absolute duty to act for the benefit of the public or a designated individual, exploits the relationship for personal benefit, typically pecuniary.

(Wilmington, DE) – The campaign of Tim Sheldon today revealed that Republican candidate for President of New Castle County Council, Thomas Kovach, has a conflict of interest that raises questions about his fitness for office. Kovach, a Director at a prominent law and lobbying firm, represents powerful real estate developers to county government decision makers. Additionally, candidate Kovach failed to file the required statement of personal financial interests with the New Castle County Ethics Commission. The disclosure is mandatory for all County office candidates, in order to inform the public of any potential issues, which Kovach clearly has. The violation also carries penalties.

“Thomas Kovach has potential conflicts of interest that will require him frequently to recuse himself from County Council discussions and decisions. His firm legally represents and lobbies for big land developers, and also polluters like BP and Sunoco, who may be coming before the Council seeking favorable decisions. Will he be serving the public interest or his law firm’s clients when he votes on land use issues? I think the public interest would be put at risk if Mr. Kovach were to become Council President,” said Tim Sheldon, Democratic candidate for Council President.

Kovach himself concedes his conflict of interest problem. According to the New Journal, “Kovach said he will recuse himself if he has a client with a project in the county, or might even refuse to represent such clients altogether.” 12/18/10

“There is real concern whether Mr. Kovach can impartially represent the best interests of communities, given his profession of advocating for developers, and his pro-business and pro-development bias,” added Tim Sheldon.

On its website, Kovach’s firm boasts of its ‘state-wide real estate and land use practice involving both commercial and residential land use issues, zoning, transactions and disputes,’ and that it ‘provides representation on commercial and residential development projects, shopping centers, malls, recreational facilities, office buildings and marinas.’ Many of these areas are under the control of the County Council.

It was also learned today that Kovach, who has been a candidate since at least November 17th, has gone more than 40 days without any financial disclosure to the public. Candidates for county elective office must file a statement of their financial interests not later than seven (7) days after the last date for giving notice of candidacy for public office under the State of Delaware election laws.

On WILM Radio’s ‘Glenn Urquhart’ show on Monday when asked about the conflict-of-interest problem, Kovach brushed off any question of impropriety by announcing that he had now become a ‘consultant’ to his law firm, and said he relinquished his position as Director of the firm. The firm’s website still lists him as a ‘Director’ on January 4th, 2011, however. Without any public financial disclosure statement, it is difficult to evaluate Kovach’s claims.

“I find Mr. Kovach’s explanation frankly too slick by half. It won’t wash with voters,” said Tim Sheldon. “And when is he going release his financial interests publicly? I imagine some voters would like to see them before they cast their ballots. We need to know what conflicts his personal finances might contain.”

When explaining his candidacy in November, Kovach declared that “having more openness and transparency in the county’s decision-making process will be the first-step towards a better, more trusted government”. Tim Sheldon observed that those words now must ring ironic for voters after today’s revelation.

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