The actions of a Falmouth councillor who was accused of being in a conflict of interest will be thoroughly examined by the province's attorney general.
West Hants CAO Cheryl Chislett informed council Oct. 22 that she received word from the attorney general's office that an inquiry into Coun. Victor Swinamer's alleged conflict of interest with relation to the Windsor Fire Department will be conducted.
Swinamer, who serves District 9, came under fire earlier this summer when Deputy Warden Gary Cochrane made a motion to have Swinamer investigated by the attorney general. The motion was passed at the July 9 regular council meeting.
At the time, it was noted that Swinamer is the father-in-law of Windsor Fire Chief Scott Burgess.
When discussions near the beginning of Swinamer's term as councillor centered around the Windsor Fire Department, Swinamer would declare a conflict of interest and decline to vote. However, soon after council made the motion to instruct staff to “begin the process of establishing an all-inclusive fire protection service for the areas in West Hants currently receiving fire protection service from the Windsor Fire Department” at the May 14 regular council meeting, Swinamer began voting on motions and matters pertaining to the Windsor Fire Department.
The WFD has been operating without a signed contract with the municipality for about three years. The department has not been paid for services rendered since April 2013, when council changed the funding structure for the Windsor Fire Department. The volunteer organization is now required to provide council with detailed receipts before any payment will be made. The WFD has, however, continued to provide fire coverage to the region.
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When Cochrane made the motion in July to have Swinamer investigated, he quoted the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Section 12.1 of the act states: “if a council or local board by resolution request that inquiry be made into or concerning a) any matter mentioned in the resolution and relating to an alleged malfeasance, breach of trust or other misconduct on the part of a member, an officer or other official, an employee or agent of the municipality or local board, or any person having a contract therewith, in relation to the duties or obligations of such person to the municipality or local board; (b) any allegation that a member has contravened the provisions of this act; or (c) any matter connected with the good government of the municipality or local board or the conduct of any part of the public business thereof, the attorney general shall appoint a judge or some other suitable person to make this inquiry.”
Chislett told councillors at their Oct. 22 committee of the whole meeting that the attorney general had yet to start the review.