Conflict of Interest Council Discussion

The topic of Conflict of Interested generated a healthy discussion at the Collingwood Council table on Monday May 14th.

The discussion was triggered when Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson asked that the Integrity Commissioner appear in person to relay findings in a report prepared by Principles Integrity that found Collingwood Mayor Sandra Cooper to have a conflict of interest when she participated in discussion and voted at the February 12, 2018 meeting of Collingwood Council with regards to Staff Report C2018-01 titled “Consulting Advisory Services in the Sale of the Collingwood Regional Airport.”

The report had been on the May 14th Collingwood Council agenda as a General Consent item.

Mayor Sandra Cooper excused herself from this portion of the council meeting.

Collingwood Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson put forth a motion to amend the current contract with Principles Integrity to require an in-person public presentation to Council on any investigation that resulted in a report.

He said the previous arrangement with the former Integrity Commissioner say the Commissioner present an in-person report to council once the report had been submitted. Saunderson stated that he would like to see this process continue with Principles Integrity.

“I would like to invite the Integrity Commissioner here to speak to their report. These reports are important for transparency and accountability and for the education not only of council but the public in terms of Code of Conduct and it seems to me if the public is paying for this report they are entitled to hear the substance of the report and to hear the questions council may have because these issues are not straight forward.”

Town Clerk Sara Almas confirmed that under the previous contract with the former Integrity Commission a structure was in place for regular reporting to once a report was filed with council.

“In this contract with Principles Integrity which is through the County’s program there is an annual presentation provided that they come and speak to but if Council does choose that they would like to retain their services to come to do a public presentation if there is a formal report presented a motion would be in order.”

It was learned that the approximate cost for a public presentation to council by a Principles Integrity Commissioner would be $1,000.

Councillor Kevin Lloyd said he couldn’t support the expense.

Councillor Kevin Lloyd stated that he felt having the Integrity Commissioner report to Council would be a waste of money.

“To me that’s a complete waste of money. I think once a year is sufficient for this sort of thing. Why would you cover them individually when you’d have them all covered at once. The other thing too is that I believe this report is eleven pages, it’s very thorough, it’s very comprehensive, whether I agree with it or not is another thing. I don’t. But I think it’s completely and utterly clear from its presentation. If the public wants to read it they can have a pretty good background as to what took place. So I think it would be a waste of our tax payer’s money once again to bring somebody up for one particular Commissioner’s report.”

Councillor Kathy Jeffery said she was totally opposed to Councillor Kevin Lloyd’s comments.

“I think in terms of our term and education for the public and for council in an ongoing basis, it’s important to have these reports made to council and to the public as they occur. To accumulate them to the end of the year is hardly an open and transparent process whereby Council or the public could learn anything about how we should be conducting our business as individuals or as a community, so I think it would be significantly important to support this motion.”

Councillor Bob Madigan felt the report needed to come before Council soon.

“I think it’s quite advantageous that we get it done sooner than later. I think everything is a lesson rather than a mistake if we learn from it and I think by this Commissioner coming up and reporting to us and explaining some of the complicities of this will help us learn as a council and the community does deserve to know.”

Councillor Deb Doherty agreed that having the Integrity Commissioner appear in person to report to Council would be beneficial.

“My concern about having a delay in the presentation is these are meant to be instructive and to provide guidance and correction if need be on the way we are governing this municipality and to wait and not bring recommendations to the floor sooner rather than later puts is in a position were potentially we could make mistakes again.”

Councillor Cam Ecclestone supported the motion to bring the Integrity Commissioner to council. He would like to see the presentation happen soon, within the month.

Councillor Tim Fryer said what is being asked for is a continuation of the format undertaken with the previous contract.

“I do believe that this is something that we kind of suspected would happen when there is a written report because of our previous situation and it is something that this Council is looking to carry on so I’m intending on being supportive of the motion.”

In a recorded vote, Deputy Mayor Saunderson and Councillors Fryer, Jeffery, Madigan, Ecclestone and Doherty voted in favour of the motion. Councillors Edwards and Lloyd voted against the motion.

The motion was carried.

CLICK HERE to read the full Integrity Commissioner’s Report against Mayor Sandra Cooper

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