Local officials endorse conflict of interest ideas

Resolutions suggest codes, expand conflict of interest commissioner powers

Municipal politicians can be expected to be ethical but should have provincial conflict of interest guidelines, Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) delegates heard Sept. 26.

The cities of Richmond and Vancouver submitted resolutions asking municipalities to create such rules for local elected officials and for Victoria to create a conflict of interest complaint mechanism.

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Vancouver’s resolution said when an elected official or senior staff member leaves a municipal role and takes a new role with a private firm that does business with the municipality, it can undermine public trust.

“Elected officials and senior civil servants have valuable knowledge and relationships that can potentially create unfair and profitable advantage for new employers simply because of the position they currently occupy with the city,” it said.

The resolution noted some municipal codes of conduct “prohibit individuals from relaying confidential information for the purpose of securing a private benefit for themselves or for any other person, and requires avoidance of voting on issues when they personally think they are in conflict, but does not address conflict of interest post-employment or for family members.”

The Richmond resolution said the only remedy for a citizen complaint about a municipally elected person’s conflict of interest is through a judgement of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. It asked for Victoria to consider a mechanism to resolve and fix conflict of interest complaints through a non-partisan municipal conflict of interest commissioner or through expansion of the scope of powers of the B.C. conflict of interest commissioner.

Speaking against the resolution, Strathcona Regional District director Brenda Leigh said the criminal code should be beefed up to deal with such issues.

“We don’t need to do this,” she said.

“I don’t know how this can be enforced,” said North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring, encouraging the UBCM itself to take leadership on ethical issues.

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

@jhainswo

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