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BEPPLE – Declaring conflicts of interest a normal part of the job on City council

(Image: CFJC Today)

DECLARING A CONFLICT OF INTEREST is a normal event during a B.C. city council meeting.

In British Columbia, councils are governed by the Community Charter which was established by the B.C. provincial government.  In the Community Charter, elected officials’ requirements around conflict of interest are clearly laid out.

The B.C. government website on “Ethical standards for locally elected officials” states if a council member has a conflict of interest they must “declare that interest in the matter. Following their declaration, they may not participate in discussions, vote or exercise influence on the matter.

Although I can’t say what they will be or when it will happen, I can confidently say that every member of Kamloops City council will at one point in time declare a conflict of interest and leave the council meeting.

When Peter Milobar was mayor of Kamloops, he would declare a conflict of interest relating to matters relating to the Place Inn, which his family had financial interests in.

Current Councillor Mike O’Reilly has declared conflict of interest related to some matters in the Iron Mask area because of his business involvements there.

A conflict can be because of pecuniary (financial interests), as in the case of Milobar or O’Reilly.

It can also be non-pecuniary (non-financial).  Council members recuse themselves if a decision is being made related to a close family member.

Council members declare conflict if matters come to council for non-profit boards for which they are executive members.

While on council from 2008 to 2014, I would declare a conflict of interest when matters related to the proposed KGHM mine were discussed.  I had both pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests.

My pecuniary interest was that I owned shares in the mining company.

My non-pecuniary interest was that I had a partner at the time who was part owner of a company with mineral rights within the footprint of the mine.  There was a strong likelihood that his company would have benefited if the mine had proceeded. Even if I had sold my shares, my relationship with my partner put me in conflict.

Declaring conflict of interest is a regular part of a council meeting. If you have a conflict of interest with an item on the meeting’s agenda,  you state your conflict with the item and then you leave the meeting.  Once the item has been completed, you return to council chambers.

It is up to the each individual council member to declare their own conflicts.  I cannot declare that Coun. Bass is in conflict, nor can she declare that I have a conflict.

Each individual knows best what their financial matters are and who they are in close relationships with.  Each individual knows their own circumstances and is given the trust to decide when they are in conflict of interest.

All of council will all be in conflict at one point or other. It’s an expected part of the job.  When it occurs, all each of us needs to do is declare, recuse, and then rejoin the meeting.

When Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson recused himself yesterday, he missed a couple of steps.  First, he did not declare what the conflict was for, and second, he did not rejoin the meeting.

Conflicts of interest are a normal part of the job.  There will be many chances ahead for Mayor Hamer-Jackson, and all of council to declare, recuse and rejoin the meeting.

Here’s hoping that, no matter which member of council it is, the next time there is an item on the agenda they are in conflict with, all three steps are taken.

Nancy Bepple is a Kamloops City councillor with a strong interest in community building projects.

About Mel Rothenburger (9358 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on BEPPLE – Declaring conflicts of interest a normal part of the job on City council

  1. Two points.
    1. You must declare the nature of your conflict.
    2. You should only recuse yourself from agenda items in which you have a conflict….then return to the meeting when that matter is dealt with.

    It’s early days and the mayor is still learning the ropes. I don’t think we should get too worked up by this and hopefully the mayor has a clear idea as to what he should do moving forward.

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