Saskatchewan Ombudsman Says Municipal Council Members Need To Know And Follow Conflict Of Interest Rules

Today, Saskatchewan’s Ombudsman, Mary McFadyen, issued three reports on investigations into alleged conflicts of interest of municipal council members. Two of the reports are about council members in the RM of Sherwood No. 159 and one is about the former mayor of the Village of Manor. She says these cases show that conflicts of interest can arise in a wide variety of circumstances. “Residents need to know that their council members are acting only in the best interest of their community. It is not uncommon for council members to have private interests that could conflict with their ability to carry out their public duties. That’s why it is so important for them to know what to do to address conflicts of interest.”

McFadyen found that Councillor Tim Probe and former Councillor Joe Repetski were in a conflict of interest at a January 13, 2016 council meeting and failed to take the steps required of them under The Municipalities Act to deal with their conflict of interest. They did not declare their conflict of interest when a delegation of voters made a presentation to the council, requesting that Sherwood take steps to recover the money paid to them under a bylaw that was quashed by the Court of Queen’s Bench in September 2015. Also, when a motion was made to take steps to recover the money paid to them, instead of declaring their conflict of interest and leaving the room, they focussed the council’s discussion on whether the motion was properly before council under Robert’s Rules of Order. The council decided to postpose the motion, so they could get legal advice about Robert’s Rules. However, if Councillors Probe and Repetski had followed the conflict of interest rules in The Municipalities Act, the motion would not have been postponed.  At a October 28, 2016 meeting, the council decided to take steps to recover the money paid – neither Councillor Repetski nor Probe were present at the meeting. Mr. Repetski did not run in the October municipal election, so he is no longer on Sherwood’s council. McFadyen has recommended that the RM of Sherwood vote on whether to apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench for an order declaring Tim Probe to be disqualified from council.

The Village of Manor made a decision to sell land (that had previously been a public campground site) to the former mayor’s son. The Ombudsman found that the former mayor did not fully comply with the conflict of interest rules in The Municipalities Act. She did not properly declare and disclose her conflict of interest in the decision to sell the land to her son. The village also did not give public notice of its intention to sell the land, as was required by its own public notice bylaw. McFadyen recommended that the village council adopt procedures allowing anyone – council members, village employees and members of the public – to raise and have the council properly address allegations of conflict of interest.

The Cities Act, The Municipalities Act, and The Northern Municipalities Act 2010 require council members who have a conflict of interest in a matter before council to:

•    Declare that he or she has a conflict of interest before any consideration of the matter.
•    Disclose what the conflict is, and why and how it might affect his or her impartiality as a council member.
•    Abstain from voting on any question, decision, recommendation or other action council is considering about the matter.
•    Refrain from participating in any discussion about the matter.
•    Leave the room until the discussion and voting on the matter have concluded.

All council members need to be aware of and follow these rules. The consequences of not following these rules are serious: council members must resign immediately and are not eligible to be nominated or elected in any municipality for 12 years. More importantly, this erodes public confidence in our municipal government institutions. With this in mind, McFadyen is providing a new brochure to municipalities and is offering introductory webinars about her role in relation to procedural fairness and conflicts of interest.

For copies and summaries of the Ombudsman’s reports, go to The Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly who operates under The Ombudsman Act, 2012. Her Office promotes and protects fairness and integrity in the design and delivery of provincial and municipal government services.

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Investigation Summary – RM of Sherwood (Probe & Repetski) (application/pdf, 134.20 Kb)

Investigation Report – RM of Sherwood (Probe) (application/pdf, 182.84 Kb)

Investigation Report: RM of Sherwood (Repetski) (application/pdf, 160.41 Kb)

Investigation Summary – Village of Manor (application/pdf, 120.20 Kb)

Investigation Report – Village of Manor (application/pdf, 187.44 Kb)

OMB-Conflict-of-Interest-Brochure (application/pdf, 74.65 Kb)