Canning responds to concerns regarding ‘conflict of interest’

I am writing this letter in my capacity as CEO of Illumination Technologies California (ITC) and would like to address an understandable concern expressed by some about the potential conflict of interest related to ITC’s proposed fire siren cell project currently before the City of Calistoga.

While I work hard as your mayor to benefit our city on a daily basis, it is also necessary to have a full-time job. I have been very fortunate over the years to have been offered employment opportunities, but one of my criteria has always been that there be a public benefit. The position with ITC meets that requirement — and allows me to remain in Calistoga.

When we first considered offering our program to the city, the perceived conflict of interest was an important concern of mine. While it may have been easier to simply avoid doing business here, I felt strongly about the benefit of the program and did not want Calistoga to be deprived of the opportunity to consider what would be offered elsewhere. A great deal of time and effort has gone into mitigating any direct or perceived conflict of interest. These measures include my not participating in any discussions or deliberations between city council members or city staff during project application consideration, and I cannot and will not participate in city-sponsored meetings or hearings. Legal counsel has been consulted, and I even required inclusion of a clause in my employment agreement that excludes receipt of any compensation directly related to any projects within the City of Calistoga.

We feel that the proposal currently before the city offers significant benefits. ITC has been providing public safety benefits to communities worldwide for over 18 years, creating partnerships that improve safety and quality of life for residents at no cost to cities and towns. If Calistoga and its residents choose to decline this opportunity, we will simply continue our work with other municipalities.

I take my responsibility as mayor very seriously and have worked tirelessly to help improve the health, safety and quality of life of our community. I believe that my actions over the years have built trust and credibility, always striving to base my decisions and interactions according to high moral and ethical standards. My reputation is important to me and realize that the proposed project could pose a risk to that, but I feel the overall benefit to our community is worth that risk.

Chris Canning

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Calistoga does not need cell towers

It is our understanding the Calistoga City Council will be reviewing a proposal put forth by Illumination Technologies to provide and install five Warning Sirens on 60-foot tall towers in and around the City of Calistoga. This would be at no cost to the city. However, Illumination Technologies would profit off of leasing space on the towers for cellular telephone services providers.

While this may appear attractive to the city financially there are so many things wrong with this approach, starting with the fact the Mayor of Calistoga is employed by Illumination Technologies, which we view as a clear conflict of interest.

While we agree warning sirens are a needed addition (we used to have a siren at the fire station), Calistoga does not need additional cell phone towers. Lack of cell phone service has never been the topic of discussion in our neighborhood. The Napa Valley Register published an article on April 13, 2018 regarding testing of Warning Sirens which recommended a total of two sirens be installed, so why do we now need five? According to the above referenced article, the Calistoga Fire Chief presented the results of the tests to the mayor and city manager and asked for direction regarding whether or not to purchase them. We would like to know why this proposal never went further. It is time to slow this process down to allow for discussion of alternatives and/or competitive bidding for the single proposal currently being presented. In our opinion there is a real need for transparency and a focus on critical emergency procedures, of which the warning sirens are just one piece. Cell towers, however, are not.

It is our understanding that this matter is on the agenda of the Aug. 6, city council meeting to be voted on. We encourage all concerned residents to attend.

Tom and Connie Johnson

Editor’s Note: The discussion of the cell towers has not yet been scheduled by the City Council.

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Chris Canning is CEO of Illumination Technologies California.

Canning also serves as Mayor of Calistoga.