Conflict of Interest

November 13, 2022

Virgil Hammock
Candidate Ward 3 Councillor
Tantramar Township

Recently there has been a lot of conversation concerning conflict of interest in regard to Sackville Town Council. Actually, it has been a topic of interest as long as I can remember at council. Well, at least, as long ago when I was on council from 1999 to 2012. It is an important issue as it reflects on the public’s trust of council and municipal government. There are two types of conflict of interest—actual and perceived. Both are important. The former can actually lead to legal charges and, in municipal government, removal from office. The later is more likely to lead to the public’s mistrust in their elected officials. Both are bad and are to be avoided.

Members of council and the mayor are both mandated to declare a conflict of interest, both actual and perceived, prior to any, any discussion of an agenda item as well in closed in camera meetings. He or she should physically remove themselves from the meeting and not return until the matter is resolved. There cannot be any debate before conflict is declared

Normally the mayor will ask council before the agenda is discussed at public council meeting if any member wishes to declare a conflict. If the mayor wishes to declare he/she will do so at that time. When the agenda item comes up the member will leave the room before the item is moved and seconded. If it is the mayor they will leave the room and be replaced by the CAO so as not to affect the vote. When the item is resolved the council member or mayor can return and the meeting proceeding.

This procedure is simple and should operate under an honour system. Members of council and the mayor should know when they have an actual or perceived conflict and act accordingly. If conflicts of interest are decided after the fact by lawyers or consultants the harm has already been done. Trust has been lost and in the case of an actual conflict possibly much more. Simply put even though it may be a perceived conflict of interest the best thing to do walk away and let others decide the issue. You can be reasonably sure if you do so that the other councillors know your view in any case.

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