By George F. Evens. Conflict of Interest or not? How is the Public to know and shouldn’t we know for a fact? What Public accounting and resolution will the Public be granted?
Now that Council is perceived to have wrongly voted to not proceed with requesting Legal Counsel to initiate Supreme Court proceedings pertaining to resolving the alleged conflict of interest case before Council pertaining to Councillor D. Hensman, what is Council going to do to regain the lost public trust in your ability to govern, to consider facts objectively and arrive at a fair, impartial & factual consensual decision? We witness the accused, one absent Councillor (on the phone) and the Mayor voting against proceeding, whereas four present Councillors voted to proceed with Court action.
The burning question on the Public’s mind is, “was a conflict of interest created or not”? We worry that no member of Council present clarified the Community Charter section permitting Councillor D. Hensman to vote on a motion involving himself, in a matter being alleged to be part of a conflict of interest, that the vote if in the negative would free him to continue to receive pecuniary interests by his voting in the negative, to win the vote, as no action would thus commence. Whereas Section 111 (3) of the Charter seems to permit doing so, the layman public may find incongruous being accustomed to a majority, that, in fact, in this case four Councillors – a majority voted to proceed. Perception is one of seemingly unreasonable or unfair and the public may have desired the accused to possibly recuse himself to at least give the impression of being just.
Some members rightly seemed to feel a Judicial, professional, impartial and legal review of the issue, the ability to under oath ascertain facts involved and thus a fair decision would be rendered if conflict was committed or not. Thus, as it stands, Councillor D. Hensman either is perceived to have conned enough on Council, such as perceived friends to vote with him in the negative and thus negate any legal proceedings. Or maybe he was actually innocent but the Public will not know. The growing uncertainty and lack of trust, of Council, is the result, not just Councillor D. Hensman personally or alone.
Question now exists about facts some on Council may consider to make a decision and are there ethical conditions that bear further scrutiny? Simply, is this a circus, and how can an elected Council act so divided, in such an important matter? You had to watch the web.cast and view the antics to appreciate just how unprofessional Council is now perceived.
The mere fact an ill Councillor would on several occasions, on a very poor phone line, be permitted to interrupt Council proceedings to speak largely illegibly, with no professional adjustment or control over the sound system being web.cast, it was mainly deplorable, at best. But the additional question about Council procedures is raised and sadly, I do not have the correct answer at this writing, that as I have never heard of the situation previously, an ill Councillor would be called and discuss an important matter, in part, on the phone, indeed is this now accepted Council policy? If yes, is this the practice to be followed by all future issues when a Councillor is absent, as I believe previously if absent and a keen interest of the absent Councillor, the topic would be deferred to a later Council meeting.
My wife and I listened/watched the web cast in near total belief this was happening. Even worse, that a four to three vote which would normally pass was not entertained due to the Community Charter claiming a 2/3 vote of Council was needed. Hence, while I believe Councillor Hensman could legally vote, should he and should Councillor Nundal vote, being absent? My word, the optics alone, will destroy Council credibility. With a four to three vote certainly exacerbates public concerns and near destroys public trust, at best.
Frankly, listening and wondering who, if anyone, knew exactly what they were legally doing legally was of concern. The obvious lack of leadership emanating from the Mayor further exacerbated and perpetuated a growing public concern at lack of maturity and moral guidance and seemed to exemplify expected intolerance and impatience. Recently, losing patience with Councillors the Mayor arbitrarily and wrongly stopped Councillors questions at a Public Hearing, a foolish notion that will need to be rescinded as the Mayor does not have this right to give or take power away from Councillors but it goes to the point of professional leadership that is lacking versus a belief in personal power over others prevails, tantamount to bullying, such as, if angered by a member of the Public, the Mayor stammers, “do not make me angry”. So, in this matter some sound direction and need to satisfy public interests and retaining public confidence in Council was missing.
It would have been prudent and wise to have deferred the meeting until Wednesday, obtain facts as to Community Charter, who can vote. But moreso, the fair and reasonable thing to do is as stated by several, “let the Court decide”. The rant of Councillor Nundal only exacerbates the growing lack of confidence in this man who cannot seem to think of anything but not spending taxpayer money, perceived devoid of any compassion, logic, reason or facts be damned, just a fear to spend money and again, the same $50,000-$60,000 cost was floated, anything to fear-monger but as Councillor Stevens alluded, in these matters money is not the primary issue. Fortunately, not all Public share such inane views as those voting to not proceed with Court action and voting to refrain from seeking justice and appearance that justice is done, at reasonable cost, will further erode Public trust and Confidence. Simply, a person cannot expect justice when a failure to do due diligence and to be impartial and fair minded, such as let the Courts decide these important matters, not whether justice is denied, because it seems to cost too much, to one Councillor.
As it stands, part of Councillor Hensman established behavior pattern, to attack and accuse another, simply to cast attention off himself, emerged when he attacked Councillor Stevens and for this he lost support of Councillor Jewell. But is it a part of a perceived behavior and may it be part of the man’s character? The personal opinions from Council only widened public mistrust and fears, that a sound case before a Judge would have resolved, with no hurt feelings nor further perpetuated lack of trust in Council and their motives, their perceived inept behavior, as exemplified at Council meeting Monday January 20, 2014 that the Public can view and judge for themselves.
Presumably Section 111, (1), (a) of the Charter permits 10 or more electors of the municipality, or (b) the municipality, may apply to the Supreme Court for an order under this section but perceived costs for an individual may be too exorbitant to incur, hence, why electors expect diligent governance and stewardship of finances and legal applications to be administered by our elected body, in the overall best interests of our Community and sadly this explains our collective chagrin at Council actions in this matter leaving us all in a cloud of uncertainty and impression justice has not been done for Councillor Hensman nor the Municipality and this is unacceptable, at best.
George F. Evens