Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas apologized in an email sent to constituents Sunday for his role in a potentially illegal agreement with the developers behind the Oakland Crossings neighborhood.
“First, I acknowledge and apologize to you for my poor judgment, which has caused some members of the community to lose trust in me,” Thomas wrote. “It has always been my goal as a Council member to represent constituents honestly and openly, and I am disappointed in myself for failing in that attempt. In my eagerness to advance social equity in the community, I did not realize that what I was doing might be wrong, and that is a lesson learned.”
According to documents and an email thread the Missourian obtained from the Missouri Ethics Commission and the city clerk, Thomas reported himself to the commission after negotiating a deal that would have solidified his support of the Oakland Crossings neighborhood in north Columbia contingent upon a $40,000 donation from developers Shannon Sapp and Justin Barnes to the Columbia Community Land Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to creating and maintaining affordable housing. After city employees voiced concerns about the plan’s legality and appropriateness, Thomas and the developers called it off.
Thomas said in his email that he wouldn’t have gained financially from the agreement and participated in an effort to address the affordable housing problem in Columbia.
In the email, Thomas said he agreed to support the development and to encourage other City Council members to support it “because of the affordable housing benefit to the city and the precedent it set for future policy.” He was referring to inclusionary zoning policy, which he advocates for in his platform for re-election.
The council was scheduled to have a public hearing on the Oakland Crossings annexation and zoning request at the Nov. 19 meeting, but Mayor Brian Treece asked that it be withdrawn from the agenda after learning about it that afternoon, just hours before the meeting. His move came after the deal had been quashed.
“I see now that, in my enthusiasm to make progress on affordable housing, I overlooked the input of other stakeholders such as nearby residents and also the importance of waiting until after the public hearing to make a final decision on how I should vote,” Thomas wrote. “For those errors of judgment, I sincerely apologize.”
Thomas also noted that the agreement “was never a ‘secret deal,’ as has been alleged.” He said he used his official email account for all communications and included another City Council member in all of the discussions. Thomas also said city staff were present at the meeting with the developers and were included in the email thread to provide professional guidance on the process.
Supervising editor is Kaleigh Feldkamp: email@example.com, 882-5720.