The 11th Councilor by Jamie Gilcig – New Conflict of Interest By Law for Cornwall Ontario? Jan 27, 2014

The 11th Councilor by Jamie Gilcig – New Conflict of Interest By Law for Cornwall Ontario?   Jan 27, 2014

Jamie GilcigCornwall Ontario – I get asked a lot about local politics.   Young people, old, heck sometimes by politicians themselves.      There is a lot of material in Cornwall which can be good and bad.    With elected officials and some management playing games with the releasing of info I thought it’d be time to start a new column.

The 11th Councilor will focus on specific municipal issues that impact not only locally, but outside our area as well.    We will have occasional interviews as well on important issues.

Not enough people go to City Council and with fewer and fewer people having cable and some media outlets not covering important issues how is the average person to be educated enough to understand what’s happening with the near $150M per year that the City of Cornwall burns through every year for example?

Today’s issue is the new motion to create a new Conflict of Interest policy, or as one wag called it; “The Gilcig Bylaw” for the city put forth by rookie Councilor Maurice Dupelle and seconded by fellow rookie David Murphy.

Some back ground on this is that if the person that mops the floor at City Hall wants to run for council and is elected they have to give up their City Job; yet elected officials of council sitting on boards of organizations not only don’t recuse themselves, but they actually lobby and vote as we have seen with Mayor Kilger and Councilor Elaine MacDonald over the University Study that took taxpayers for over $60K.  (It also turns out that they used The River Institute to facilitate the study and that Councilor Bernadette Clement sits on their board)

Another issue was the same Councilor MacDonald lobbying for the Agape Centre when she sits on its board.      That one left a lot of people shaking their head and may even have contributed to council voting against the funding if you listen to a few of the wags in the know.

It is clear that Councillors’ participation in certain types of organization such as the following is not in conflict with the Act:

  • School Boards
  • Board of Directors of the Children’s Aid Society
  • Committee of Adjustment
  • Conservation Authority
  • Court of Revision
  • Land Division Committee
  • Municipal Service Board
  • Public Library Board
  • Board of Management of an Improvement Area
  • Board of Health
  • Police Services Board
  • Planning Board
  • District Social Services Administration Board
  • Trustee of a police village
  • Board of Committee of Management of a Long Term Care Home

It is also clear that it is not a contravention of the Act if Councillors’ are carrying on activities for or on behalf of a municipality when that Councillor is an “appointee” to that body by the municipal council (examples of this locally would be the local Housing Corporation and the Airport Commission).

Actually it’s not that clear.  Frankly any councilor sitting on the board of any organization with a financial relationship  with council should recuse themselves entirely from influence, discussion, and voting.  It’s a choice that someone should make before running. Do I want to help my community by being on all these boards or take a salary being an elected official?  Easy question right?

A concern could emerge from non-profit corporations or charities since Court decisions pertaining to the Act have been inconsistent. It is possible for a Councillor to participate in non-profit or charity or charity corporations in compliance to the Act, if such an entity would, when considering the whole of the Act, be:

  • one which provides public services only as opposed to one which exists solely to benefit a defined class of members;
  • the public services provided by such an entity should be delegated to it by municipalities or be conceptually similar to municipal-like services;
  • an organization in which the municipality has a substantial interest or with which it has a substantial relationship, financial or otherwise, in the sense that the organization is providing important public and perhaps quasi municipal-like services to and for the benefit of the public only;
  • the Councillor or local board member has been appointed to that organization as a member of it for the purpose of contributing to the maintenance of its relationship with the municipality or for oversight of the discharge of the organization’s mandate in a fashion which is consistent with municipal interests; or
  • the Councillor has absolutely no personal interest of a possible pecuniary kind in the outcome of the affairs of the entity and the outcome of any motion before Council.

Whether or not such an organization meets the test for an exclusion under the Act has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The onus of making that assessment lies on each individual Councillor.

It is important to note that every case must be looked at on its merits to determine and care must be exercised to analyse the issue before participating and is a decision to be reached by individual Councillors.

Councillor Dupelle and Councillor Murphy’s motion is legal and does not go against the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. However, it potentially would restrict Councillors from participation with non-profit or charitable corporations above and beyond what is restricted by the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

There is a valid concern.  How can Councilor Carr get paid a salary from Heart of the City and then sit on council making decisions even remotely related to HOC?   Ms MacDonald as President of the Labour Council having access to any union contracts never mind negotiations with city staff?    Denis Thibault’s relationship with the EOTB and other agencies also begets a need for a wall of some sort.   Any agency like the Library, Seaway Tourism, Aultsville theatre, etc, that is taking city dollars should not have someone lobbying for dollars and then voting on said vote.

It’s pretty clear.   As for the silly argument about not making money or fiduciary benefit; many use these positions as a launch pad for attempts at higher office.  If elected there certainly would be a financial gain; but there’s also political influence.  For example Councilor MacDonald’s petty hatred of this media outlet spreads to any agency that she’s affiliated with sadly so we do not have a relationship with The Agape Centre or The Art Gallery that she sits on the board of.

The bottom line is that optics do count and that we should be holding those elected to higher standards especially when they see fit to keep jacking up taxes 2% a year like that have for more of Mayor Kilger’s term and the previous one.

Should an elected official have to declare a conflict regarding agencies whose boards they sit on?

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