REPORTING · 4th August 2011
At Council on Monday, July 4th, Councillor Mario Feldhoff put forward a motion to contact the Friends of Shames My Mountain Co-Op to put forward solutions for Kitimat residents and invite them to meet with Council in camera.
“This group has been working diligently towards purchasing the ski hill and I know the ski hill provides an important component towards recreation opportunities in our community. I want them to be successful. We should meet with them and we should explore, cooperatively with them, all alternatives that will lead to successful opportunities for recreational down hill skiing people in our community,” said Feldhoff.
Councillor Randy Halyk asked if Feldhoff had bought shares in the Co-Op to which he responded yes but he was not a table officer. Councillor Gerd Gottschling asked if this put him into conflict of interest. Feldhoff asked the staff for a ruling.
Community Clerk Walter McLellan said purchasing a fundraising sharemembership does not make him a table officer so there is no pecuniary interest. The motion was carried.
Council met in camera with My Mountain Co-Op and Mayor of Terrace, Dave Pernarowski on Monday, July 18th under the topic, economic development.
This conflict of interest question led to a discussion at Council on Monday, July 18th during the approval of the minutes. Councillor Randy Halyk had a topic on which he wished to speak. “At the time, I brought up a concern about conflict of interest on that respect and on so doing, I did a little investigating,” said Halyk.
He said his research told him there was a conflict of interest. He offered to read from the book but was called out of order. Feldhoff expressed a feeling ambushed. Municipal Manager Ron Poole said this should be brought up later.
So it came up under new business instead. He said he wanted to know how to approach conflict of interest. Councillor Corinne Scott objected to revolving this conversation around Feldhoff as it was not up to Council to call out Councillors on conflict, it’s up to the Councillor or the public.
Feldhoff encouraged Halyk to raise the issue with the parliamentarian if he found contrary information so the Clerk could write a report. He felt at a disadvantage because of it being brought up without warning.
Councillor Bob Corless pointed out the Mountain Co-Op is most likely a non entity as the money is held in trust and if it does not fly, Feldhoff gets his money back.
Halyk said the point is: “Is there a conflict of interest when I am a member of a group and I make a motion to bring that group to Council to convince Council to give money.”
Mayor Monaghan cut him off as Scott called for another point of order. Monaghan asked McLellan to reiterate what he had said at the last meeting.
McLellan explained a pecuniary conflict is when a Councillor is ‘the servant of two masters.’ In a service organization, if a person is a table officer, they are in conflict. He added: “If you think you are in conflict, you probably are.”
Halyk replied he had a document which said otherwise. He was hoping to have a conversation to understand conflict of interest. He read a definition of common law which explained the courts have to have no appearance of bias. An elected official conduct must be above suspicion.
“I take my public responsibilities very seriously and I do believe I am not in a conflict based on the information that I have received,” said Feldhoff.
He asked Halyk to get a legal opinion or opinion. This was followed by a motion to thank the Baptist Church for putting on Serve which the conflict discussion leaked into. Councillor Rob Goffinet commented that he and Councillor Gerd Gottschling are not in conflict despite being members of the church.
Kitimat resident ( 42 years )
Comment by A concerned Kitimat resident on 4th August 2011
Upon reading this article I have a question about Kitimat tax dollars going towards the Shames ski hill. Let me mention I am all for recreation in our community and think we have some very good options for our residents and vistors to town alike! At a time where our tax dollars should be carefully spent due to the lower amount available is it a wise choice to help fund the ski hill? I would like to refer back to an issue,.... the lack of garbage cans here in Kitimat along the sidewalks and how the District could only purchase a few due to the high cost yet they have funds to go towards the ski hill project? I would be much happier to see our tax dollars spent right here in Kitimat on items our community needs first before we consider the Shames ski hill or any other venture out of town.