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Calls For Councilman To Resign Grow In Light Of Utility’s Employee Handbook Guidelines

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Calls for a Huntsville city councilman to resign grew louder Thursday in light of new revelations on the city-owned utility company that recently hired him.

Councilman John Olshefski recently accepted an administrative job with Huntsville Utilities, which must get city council approval before raising rates on customers. Some of Councilman Olshefski’s constituents said it’s become a clear-cut conflict of interest, and pointed to copies of a Huntsville Utilities employee handbook that was obtained by WHNT News 19.

According to the Huntsville Utilities bylaws, employees can hold a second job provided it “does not adversely affect job performance, result in a conflict of interest, or subject the company or the city of Huntsville to public criticism or embarrassment.”

Olshefski’s critics said the handbook policies are just the latest proof of Olshefski’s compromised position.

“I certainly think this is something that the utilities company should very strongly consider,” said South Huntsville Civic Association President Jeannee Gannuch. “It appears as though this [employee handbook guidelines] is further validation that attempting to serve as a city councilman and to hold an executive position with Huntsville Utilities creates a conflict of interest.”

Gannuch has called on Olshefski to resign, and said the SHCA will not rule out a petition drive for a recall election if he doesn’t step down soon.

The Huntsville Utilities Employee Handbook also lists a section on political activity, which states that “since Huntsville Utilities is part of the city government, you are expected to avoid taking a visible role in election campaigns for local officials.” The Alabama State Ethics Commission is conducting their own review of the concerns surrounding Olshefski’s new post.

Huntsville Utilities spokesman Bill Yell declined our request for an interview on the employee policies and how they may pertain to Olshefski. Yell did issue a brief statement.

“Our official statement is that this has been reviewed, and it’s been determined that there is no conflict.”

Councilman Olshefski did not respond to our request for an interview. His term expires next year. Olshefski previously told WHNT News 19 that he did not feel there was a conflict of interest, and had no plans to resign from city council.

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