Mayor-elect steps down as CEO to avoid conflict - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Mayor-elect steps down as CEO to avoid conflict

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MARION (WSIL) -- Next week, Marion's Mayor-Elect Mike Absher will be sworn in as the first mayor elected since Bob Butler, but a conflict of interest made Absher choose between his business and the mayor's position. 

Residents in Marion might have known Absher as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Watermark Auto Group, but on April 2 voters elected him as the city's newest mayor. 

According to state statue, the two titles create a conflict of interest. 

Absher announced he was stepped down as the CEO of the Watermark Auto Group on Monday to fulfill his new role for the city of Marion. 

"The mayor's position is a full-time position and my day-to-day duties will be at city hall for the taxpayers and the City of Marion," Absher said. "I will not have a day-to-day management role in the company anymore."

Absher said the plan has been in the works since the beginning of his campaign to not only allow him to devote his time to the city but to avoid the conflict of interest. 

"We just won't do business with the city, period," Absher said. 

A city official tells News 3 there are currently more than three dozen vehicles from the Watermark Auto Group being used at the Marion Police Department. 

Absher said going forward, that will stop. 

"We will not be able to do any business, not even washing the cars for the cars for that matter, if it's city business," Absher said. 

Marion City Attorney David Lawler said he has had conversations with Absher about this state law. 

"An elected official cannot own interest in a business and vote that," Lawler said. 

Lawler said this law is a non-issue with Absher and his dealerships. 

"Watermark will not even submit any vehicles for the bidding process, meaning it's not even going to be an option for this city council," Absher said. 

Lawler did point out that the law does not say anything about using a family's business like Absher's brother's dealerships, Absher-Arnold Motors, LLC, Marion Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac,and Mercedes-Benz of Marion. 

"You want to do business in the City of Marion, but it could appear his brother will get the business," Lawler said. "But the answer is that Mike Absher owns zero interest in Absher-Arnold Motors." 

Absher said he plans to continue to being on the board of directors for the auto group, but will not allow the city and the Watermark Auto Group to do any business. 

"That will have to stop once I'm sworn in," Absher said. 

Absher said he and the two new Marion city commissioners elected will be sworn in next Monday at the Marion Civic Center. 

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