MUNICIPAL COUNCIL CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The Municipal Council Conflict of Interest Act sets a standard of good conduct for council members. The Act defines situations when an individual council member’s personal interest or the interest of their immediate family (spouse or dependent child) conflict with the broader municipal interest. It also imposes consequences on council members when they put their personal interests first.
The Act also requires all council members to annually file a Statement of Assets and Interests. The requirement to list your assets and interests in the Statement is a critical part of being accountable to the citizens of the municipality. (There is no requirement to disclose the value of the assets and interests.)
Only the Court of Queen’s Bench can determine if a council member has a conflict of interest. An elector or a council can apply to the court if they believe that a council member has violated The Municipal Council Conflict of Interest Act. The court will hear evidence and will make a decision. If the court decides that the member of council violated the Act, the member could be disqualified from council and would have to immediately resign.
Types of Conflict of Interest
Council members are in conflict if they:
• Participate in a matter before Council where they, or their spouse, or dependent children, have a direct or indirect pecuniary (financial) interest. Council members are required to disclose the interest, withdraw from the meeting without voting and not participate in the discussion.
• Use ‘insider’ information that they have acquired in the performance of their official duties. Members of council cannot use information that is not available to the public for personal gain or the gain of any other person (e.g. passing on information obtained through internal discussions).
• Receive compensation from any person, business organization for the services they provide as a council member, or receive compensation to influence another council member.
• Use their influence as a council member to influence the municipality to enter into a contract or transaction where they or their immediate family member have a direct or indirect pecuniary (financial) interest.
Conflict of Interest Questions & Answers
• What is a conflict of interest? A conflict of interest is when a person in public life is in a position where a personal interest may, or may appear to, conflict with their role as a municipal councillor. The Municipal Council Conflict of Interest Act generally defines a conflict of interest as a pecuniary interest.
• What is a pecuniary interest? A pecuniary interest is a financial interest that a member of council or their dependant may have. A pecuniary interest may be direct or indirect, and is defined in the Act.
• How does the disclosure procedure work? If the member of council has a pecuniary interest with respect to council related business, they must disclose the general nature of the interest and withdraw from the meeting without voting on or discussing the matter. Council members must refrain from attempts to influence any decision on the matter.
• Does disclosure apply to council meetings only? No. It applies also to committee or subcommittee meetings, or an agency, board or commission where the councillor serves as an elected official.
• Does this legislation cover councillor family members? Disclosure extends to the direct or indirect pecuniary interests of a spouse, common law spouse or a dependent child who resides with the council member. For example if a business deal involving the municipality and a dependant comes before council, that fact should be disclosed and the disclosure procedure followed.
• How is the disclosure recorded? The CAO or recording secretary must record the nature of the disclosure and the council members withdrawal from the meeting. A central record is required to be kept by the CAO to show compliance.
• Is the record available for public review? Yes. The record will reflect the council members statement regarding the disclosure, withdrawal from and time of return to the meeting.
• What is disclosed in the Statement of Assets & Interests? Are private financial details required to be provided? Real estate holdings in the municipality and personal financial interests that the council member, their spouse or dependent children have are required to be disclosed. Only the nature of the financial interest is required to be disclosed, not the financial details.
• Are certain things not required to be disclosed? Yes. Members of council are not required to disclose their primary residence, personal bank accounts, Canada Savings Bonds or retirement investment savings. Their income, spouse’s income or child’s income is not required to be disclosed. (The employer’s name however, must be recorded.)
• When must a Statement of Assets & Interests be filed? The statement must be filed annually by November 30th. It must be kept up to date and any changes noted within 30 days. The statement is kept on file by the CAO of the municipality. Council members have an obligation to accurately disclose their assets and interests; the CAO does not verify the accuracy of the statement.
• Do gifts have to be disclosed? Yes. Any gift valued at $250 or more must be declared. Gifts received continue to be part of the list of assets until the asset or interest is disposed of.
• Is the Statement of Assets and Interests a public document? Yes. Any person can examine the Statement upon request at the municipal office at any time during office hours. The statement cannot be photocopied or publically distributed.