CORNWALL Ontario – A group is forming which will lead to the filing of a formal Conflict of Interest complaint against Cornwall Ontario Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy, and Councilors Elaine MacDonald and Carilyne Hebert.
The incident stems from a group that came to council seeking funds that all three are on the steering committee of.
Not only did Mayor O’Shaughnessy refuse to declare his conflict, but gave live counsel to Councilor Hebert and changed her mind as she had initially declared a conflict for sitting on the steering committee at the meeting in question.
The incident was recorded by the city of the meeting.
Carilyne Hebert stated:
I will also declare a perceived conflict I will observe from the gallery. I sit on the steering committee.
However Councilor Hebert changed her mind after Mayor O’Shaughnessy spoke to her at the meeting.
Elaine MacDonald stated:
I wish to say that I also sit on the steering committee. That I not perceive or wish to declare a conflict because if it were conflict the price for sitting on a committee would be too high…
I sit on the steering committee also, and I will not be declaring a conflict in that regard…
Councilor MacDonald herself put forward the motion to grant $50,000 to the group at that meeting.
A quick google search would find the Ontario Office of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner (Sydney Linden)
The Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 (PSOA) provides for the Conflict of Interest Commissioner to have a leadership role in contributing to public servants’ understanding of the rules and how to apply them.
The commissioner also has certain responsibilities under the PSOA related to employees of ministries and employees and appointees of agencies, boards, and commissions that are defined as “public bodies” in the PSOA.
The commissioner’s role encompasses three broad areas:
- Offer advice and make determinations on specific matters involving Ontario public servants
- Provide advice and direction to public bodies
- Serve as a resource for developing and sharing information about dealing with conflict of interest and political activity matters
The website covers some of the relative ground of this incident.
From the website:
As ethics executive, the commissioner was asked to determine whether a conflict of interest arose from a public servant’s duties as a full-time commissioner of a public body and concurrent role as a volunteer board member in an outside organization. The concern stemmed from the possibility that the organization could have a matter requiring the attention of the public body.
The commissioner concluded that serving as a volunteer member of the board of the outside organization, while also serving as commissioner of the public body, was unlikely to lead to a conflict of interest since the mandate of the organization was sufficiently distinct from that of the public body. However, the commissioner directed that, in the unlikely event that the organization had a matter requiring the attention of the public body, the public servant was to take the following steps:
- Advise the organization that it may not receive any information from the public servant other than information supplied in the ordinary course of carrying out his/her duties as commissioner of the public body
- Recuse himself/herself from any decision-making, as commissioner of the public body, that could result in a benefit to the outside organization
- Recuse himself/herself from any decision-making, as a member of the outside organization’s board of directors, that could conflict with the interests of the Crown.
We have used bold type for the particularly relevant conditions.
The chair of a public body sought a determination on whether there was the potential for a conflict should he/she also be appointed to the board of a second public body. The second public body’s objectives included soliciting money and property and entering into partnerships and agreements with the private sector or public bodies.
The Commissioner determined that there would be some potential for conflicts of interest arising from performing both roles. The Commissioner advised the chair that he/she should not recommend or influence a partnership with the second public body if appointed to its board. To ensure this, the Commissioner recommended that the chair recuse him/herself from discussions and decisions at both public bodies where they involved the other public body. Moreover, the Commissioner recommended that the public servant not solicit funds on behalf of the second public body from the public body that he/she chairs, its stakeholders, or the Government of Ontario.
As ethics executive, the commissioner was asked to determine whether the duties of the chief executive officer of a public body conflicted with his/her duties as an appointee to another public body in the same sector.
The commissioner determined that assuming duties with both public bodies was not inconsistent with the public servant’s obligations under the PSOA, but acknowledged that the interests of the two public bodies could intersect, thereby creating the potential for conflicts of interest for the public servant pursuant to Ont. Reg. 381/07.
The commissioner directed the public servant to mitigate the risk of conflicts of interest by continuing to follow two established practices; he public servant disclosed the concurrent associations to both public bodies and recused himself/herself from discussions or decisions in either public body that affected the other.
While Councilor Hebert initially declared her conflict she reversed it and participated along with the Mayor and Councilor MacDonald.
The process under the Municipal Act is lengthy and most likely will cost the City a vast amount of money if vigorously defended. The penalty is removal from office if found guilty unless there is mitigating circumstances, however in this case the statements made by Mayor O’Shaughnessy and in particular Elaine MacDonald would most likely not be mitigated. MacDonald also was on council and was in conflict the first time the group came for funding.
This would be the second term that Conflict of Interest issues impacted Cornwall’s City Council. Charges were made that Mayor Bob Kilger had played a role in the hiring of a relative to a city position in the last term; something that Mayor O’Shaughnessy made political hay of while sitting as a councilor before he resigned.
The deadline to file the complaint is May 29, 2015
What do you think dear viewers of CFN? You can post your comments below and if you wish to participate and contribute to the group please email firstname.lastname@example.org for directions.
Video of the actual meeting after declarations.