FARMINGTON — San Juan Safe Communities Initiative is looking for a new executive director following the resignation of Dan Darnell who was at the center of a controversy over a conflict of interest.
The resignation of Darnell, who is a city council member, was announced Tuesday at the City Council meeting.
The nonprofit organization was at the center of a lengthy City Council debate over Darnell’s involvement in the organization.
James Henderson, President of the Board of Directors of safe communities, announced Darnell’s resignation as executive director during a heated discussion over Darnell’s conflict of interest.
The council on Oct. 2 refused to award the organization a $40,000 contract for substance abuse and gang activity suppression services. Darnell was not present at Tuesday’s meeting because of a family emergency in Durango.
Before announcing Darnell’s resignation, Henderson urged city council to reconsider their decision.
“I’m asking you to get back in the partnership,” he said.
Safe communities works in San Juan County as an umbrella organization that assists law enforcement and other agencies in streamlining and coordinating efforts to combat social issues such as gang violence and drug use. The organization regularly seeks money from local governments, including the city of Farmington.
Darnell’s position as city councilor and the organization’s executive director created a clear conflict of interest. Darnell said has always complied with state law by announcing the conflict publicly and recused himself from voting on any decisions relating to safe communities.
Councilor Mary Fischer did not agree that these actions were enough to mitigate that conflict.
“The relationship between the city and safe communities should be a good one,” she said on Tuesday. “But anyone who wears three hats should have three heads. It’s too cozy.”
Ultimately, city council did not agree to revisit the proposed contract.
Darnell said on Wednesday that his decision to step down as executive director was not motivated by the conflict of interest issue. Instead, it was driven by a recognition that new organizational leadership would be of benefit, and his desire to dedicate more time to his personal life, he said.
“After five and a half years at the helm of this organization, it’s time for someone new,” he said.
Darnell originally planned to leave safe communities in July but stayed in his position to supervise a number of projects at Henderson’s request. The board has known of his decision to step down since April, Darnell said.
He said he will continue to be involved in the organization until a replacement is found.
“We’ve gotta get on and do our search,” Henderson said. “We’ll hope for better days.”