By Robert Frank
Stung by a Quebec Municipal Commission judgment that Baie d’Urfé was complacent—or worse—about conflict of interest going on right under its nose, the town has taken umbrage at the finding.
Judge Sylvie Piérard and Judge Léonard Serafini ruled, Dec. 5, that former Baie d’Urfé councillor Wayne Belvedere was in conflict of interest over a municipal snow clearing contract worth $107,491.32 with his former firm, Landcare.
The judges didn’t stop there, though. They also reproached the town for “having been complacent in the face of an obvious conflict of interest that had been, over the years, tolerated and even encouraged.”
“The town hired a lawyer [who] verbally informed Mr. Belvedere that he had to let go of his business, now that he was a city councilor,” protested Baie d’Urfé’s top civil servant Nathalie Hadida, in a Jan. 13 letter to Judges Piérard and Serafini.
“Mr. Belvedere assured city council and administrators that the necessary steps would be taken to remedy the situation,” she told the judges. “The town was therefore not complacent about the conflict of interest that had been brought to its attention.”
“Not our job”
Hadida went on to tell the judges that city councils don’t have to investigate potential conflicts by elected officials.
Instead, Baie d’Urfé left it up to individual citizens to seek justice before the Municipal Commission.
“The town…furnished concerned citizens with the information needed to file a complaint, if that’s what they wanted to do,” she added. “So the town’s actions weren’t culpable and didn’t encourage conflict of interest.”
“Municipal civil servants have no [legal] obligation to verify [city councilors’] written declarations of their financial interests,” Hadida asserted. “It’s not their job. It’s the sole responsibility of individual councilors.”
“It’s not the city council and the administration’s job to investigate the intrigues of council members,” she wrote. “It was determined that the town was not obliged to check on whether [ownership of Belvedere’s] business had indeed been transferred [to his son].”
The judges nonetheless reproached Baie d’Urfé’s code of ethics for not excluding close relatives of elected officials from doing business with the town.
“Unlike many municipalities, Baie d’Urfé’s code of ethics does not deal with the interests of councillors’ family members,” the judges noted.
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