By Kirk Starratt
It appears it’s too late for a Kings County councillor to bring forth a Supreme Court application regarding an alleged conflict of interest. However, an elector could still qualify if it’s been within 60 days of them learning about the alleged infraction of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
Kings County Coun. Pauline Raven wrote to Justice Minister Ross Landry in June, asking him to exercise his authority under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to initiate a Supreme Court application over the alleged conflict of interest.
The objective would be to determine whether Coun. Bob Best contravened the provisions of the act when he voted in favour of funding for the Kings Mutual Century Centre during county council’s budget deliberations this past spring. Best is employed as the arena manager at the facility.
Landry declined in a letter to Raven dated July 24, obtained by the Kings County Advertiser, but gave no reason for his decision.
When asked for an explanation of the minister’s reasoning, Department of Justice media relations advisor Megan Tonet responded by email on Sept. 13. Under Section 12 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, she said, the attorney general must initiate an inquiry concerning an allegation of a councillor’s conflict of interest if a municipal council decides to request one. However, in this case, Raven’s motion to request such an inquiry was defeated by council.
“Councillor Raven’s request to the AG (attorney general) was then initiated by herself, not the council,” Tonet wrote.
Under Section 9 of the act, the attorney general is given the discretion to apply to a judge of the Supreme Court for a determination of whether a council member has contravened the act. The act also gives any elector the ability to initiate a court action.
“The AG (attorney general) carefully reviewed the request made by Coun. Raven and the AG chose not to exercise his discretion in this matter. The councillor can proceed to make an application to court as an individual so long as she is within the time limits noted by the act.”
However, applications must be made within 60 days after the fact comes to the attention of the applicant. No application may be made more than 10 years after the date of the alleged contravention of the act.
Raven has been aware of the alleged conflict for more than 60 days, but remains hopeful an elector will bring a Supreme Court application forward.
“They definitely could if they didn’t mind taking a hit to their bank account,” Raven said.
Time to stop: Best
Best said it’s sad that one councillor would do something like this to another and he thinks it’s time for the matter to be put to rest.
“I’m happy Mr. Landry looked at this carefully and decided what he did,” Best said. “Hopefully, now we can move on.”
Best said all the fundraising he did for capital for the Apple Dome was on a volunteer basis. Any funding procured from municipal, provincial and federal governments for the complex went to capital expenses, not wages. He said it’s hard to find volunteers and hopefully something like this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Best removed himself from the April 8 budget deliberations involving centre funding because he wasn’t sure whether or not he was in a conflict of interest. After seeking a legal opinion, he re-introduced himself to the budget deliberations April 15, when funding for the centre was again discussed.