REPORTING · 4th August 2011
An interesting discussion and debate occurred in Kitimat with their new CAO, Terrace’s former, Ron Poole; just when does a Councillor owning a share in an entity, or being a part of an association, determines they should remove themselves from the Council debate table. Kitimat Councillor Halyk was repeatedly cut off and stopped as he began to raise the issue and attempt to get clarity.
This is an important issue for Terrace Council as well. How many Councillors own shares in the My Mountain Co-op? Should they remove themselves from any further debate in the Council? And if they don’t how far will this potential, “appearance of conflict” be allowed to extend? Mayor Pernarowski and Councillor Downie have already accepted money from Enbridge and they were not sanctioned for that even though it is clear a breech of the rules. When do the citizens demand their Councils act above reproach? Report on Kitimats debate below;
CO-OPS, SKIING AND CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
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 the Church program, "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.
yo 'kitimat council observer'
Comment by phil germuth on 5th August 2011
Sorry but i totally disagree with you.
Councillor Feldhoff has on numerous occasions voted on issues that clearly had a connection to Rio Tinto Alcan when he should have abstained.
Yes conflict of interest is a 'murky' issue regarding the specific rules.
However heres my opinion of how Councillor Feldhoff should be conducting himself. On any issue that relates to RTA if there is any possibility that for example Paul Henning (Marios boss)could tap Mario Feldhoff on the shoulder at work and say ' Hey Mario I need you to vote this way at council tonight or there could be consequences' then Mario should abstain from that discussion.
And knowing how RTA and Paul Henning conduct themselves its not a stretch of the imagination to believe that this could possibly happen. And in its most basic form thats exactly why there are conflict of interest rules.
Now if on just one of those occasions where Councillor Feldhoff has voted in conflict he had voted on Kitimats side instead of RTA's I wouldnt be writing this.
But every single time Councillor Feldhoff has voted exactly the way Paul Henning would vote if he were on council.
And a question for you ' kitimat council observer' . Why are you hiding your name? I could understand if you were criticizing or complaining but you are complimenting him ? . So why hide your name? It really doesnt make sense.
How do we know that you're not Mario himself ? Personally I dont believe it is Mario. More than likely i would guess its one of Henning's little puppets ( KTIDS, KEDA, or Alcans Concerned Citizens).
Councillor Feldhoff is a customer of mine. I have criticized him before on conflict of interest and then for a while he chooses not to support my business. And I dont blame him for doing that. I know that there are consequences to my actions and even though they are financial I still refuse to try and hide behind a title like ' kitimat council observer'.
Personally I dont think that anybody who cant put their name behind their comments deserves any credibility at all.
Councillor Feldhoff is not the only elected official in Kitimat who has conflict of intererst troubles.
Councillor Scott is also up to her neck in conflict of interest regarding voting to take taxpayers money and give it to her 'friends'. Kitimat is a small town and everybody knows who socializes with who.
So once again it may not be conflict of interest to the ' letter of the law' but you gotta admit the 'optics' of the situation really suck for Councillor Scott regarding the Retire In Kitimat group.
If its such a great idea to continue throwing money at this group then why does Councillor Scott put herself in that position?
Its the same for both Councillors Feldhoff and Scott - if the issue is such a great idea then remove yourself from that discussion- there's 6 other elected officials who would obviously vote in favor of it if it is beneficial to the conmmunity.
Comment by Ian on 5th August 2011
If a Councillor belongs to a non-profit society, and a I emphasis " non-profit" then s/he may help and encourage such growth with in a comunity. That I agree with.
However if back door dealing infringe on the perspective of nuetrality of the individual councillor then that becomes a conflict of intrest. Where upon the councillor benifits and not the community that s/he is representing.
The people of the community voted you in and they can vote you out.
The problem with politics is that the " conflict of intrest" rule is a murkey at best, hard to define. But thats politics, the best BS'r wins., and doesn't matter what party you belong to. Self promotion and self intrest creates a bigger pay day, and not neccessarily the community that benifits.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 4th August 2011
Steve Smythe, I don't think that was what was being stated. The issue came up because that was what they had been talking about just before. A thank you letter is clearly not going to be providing a possible financial benefit to anyone voting nor would there be a perception of one. There are cases where maybe you should sit out a decision if it involves a group in which you hold a membership. That is why there need to be clear rules. Anyone who is worried about whether there might be a conflict or a perception of one, is better off and safer assuming there is one.
In local government it is more likely that politicians favor decisions which benefit business friends and those are much harder to regulate. Consider the case of the former Minister of Finance going to work for one of the the banks after she gave them all a tax break.
Feldoff always respects it with Rio Tinto
Comment by Kitimat council observer on 4th August 2011
At any and every time the words Alcan or Rio Tinto are engaged at the Kitimat Council Feldoff immediately gets up and excuses himself. As soon as the discussion is over a Council member goes and gets him. This is responsible. Any Council member can belong to any organization. But when that organization is being discuss officially they must excuse themselves
Comment by Steve Smyth on 4th August 2011
wow, so If i read this correctly, a Councillor in Kitimat can't or shouldn't belong to any church, service club or related service organization or assist in any way with any minor sports group.
I'm not sure that many people exist in a small town do they? and even if they did, Im not sure anyone that isolated from the community he or she lives in would make much of a Councillor.
What a lot of sound and fury over such a small issue.