Over the past few months, Grand Forks City Council has received a few complaints directed towards myself and the Mayor, suggesting us to be in a conflict of interest with regards to the water meter program and water rates committee. As we both had a strong objection to the program during the campaign period, it isn’t surprising that proponents of the commodification of water should object to our involvement. In January our acting CAO, at an open public meeting accused the Mayor of being in a conflict of interest with regards to any discussions around water meters. Mayor Konrad denied such an interest and stated in the Gazette that it was “a witch hunt”. Should these complaints be followed up with legal action it would prove costly for all involved. I take these accusations very seriously and as such, have retained the municipal law firm Baker and Baker at my own expense. Their findings, in alignment with the Community Charter state,
“The conflict of interest provisions of the Community Charter would not apply to you.
Section 104 (a) of the Community Charter provides that if an interest of the council member is a pecuniary interest in common with electors of the municipality generally; restrictions on participation in matters which otherwise might be considered a conflict do not apply because your interest would be deemed to be in common with the rest of the community.
*For a councillor to be precluded from participating in a matter before the Council, there must be a pecuniary interest held by that particular member which is different in kind,- not merely in degree, from any pecuniary interest held by electors affected by the matter generally. In this respect, it is not the matter which is the key issue in determining whether there is an interest in common, but rather it is the issue of a pecuniary interest in the matter.
In our opinion, you do not have, through your business, a pecuniary interest that is different in kind.”
To further remove myself from the perception of a conflict I have dissolved my personal yard care business and taken work with another company. I plan on following through with the promises I made to the public in November, to help keep water affordable for all members of our community and to minimise unreasonable government intrusion into residents’ homes.
-- submitted by Coun. Julia Butler