Michael Trimblett says he is doing his municipal duty in bringing forward a conflict of interest complaint against Northern Arm Mayor Lloyd Hunter.
It is alleged Hunter took part in a discussion and vote that favoured his wife — who is also the town clerk — during the June 18 meeting of council.
At the time, according to Trimblett – the town’s deputy mayor – employee contracts were under review and the vote extended the town clerk’s weekly hours and wages.
But progress towards having the case heard has been difficult. Trimblett has been trying for the past three months to have council address the allegations. He even submitted a letter as a taxpayer in July, but says he’s been shut down by council.
“The letter that I submitted to the mayor and council, requesting the conflict of interest (investigation), did not appear on the agenda for the Aug. 14 meeting or the Sept. 11 meeting,” he said.
When he requested to have it added during the September meeting, Trimblett said he was denied.
“The mayor refused to do it,” he claims. “Discussion took place… and he declared there would be no investigation into a conflict of interest on his behalf with the Town of Northern Arm.”
The Central Voice was unable to make direct contact with Hunter. Town hall staff, who forwarded the interview request, later responded with, “The mayor said, ‘No comment.’”
With no acknowledgement on the municipal level, Trimblett took his concerns a step further.
He sought advice through the Department of Municipal Affairs, who directed the matter back to council.
An emailed statement from Municipal Affairs confirmed what Trimblett had said.
“The Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment has been notified of an allegation of conflict of interest in the Town of Northern Arm, and has advised that it be referred to the town,” read the statement. ‘The town council is responsible for addressing allegations of conflict of interest under the Municipalities Act, 1999.”
According to the act, a councillor isn’t permitted to vote or speak to a matter where “a relative of the councillor has a monetary interest in the matter.”
The act’s definition of a relative includes a spouse or cohabiting partner.
And in situations of conflict, the Municipalities Act indicates a councillor must declare a compromised position, in which the member in question leaves the meeting for council to make a ruling on said conflict. If conflict is found, the councillor is removed from all discussions on the matter and is not permitted to vote.
Failure to do so can result in a member of council being forced to vacate their seat and is prevented from running in a municipal election for two years.
Frustrated over the fact that a municipality and its governing body are refusing to address the issue, Trimblett said he will continue to try and find a way to move the subject forward.
“When I joined council last September, I made an oath to uphold the Municipalities Act,” he said, “failure on the part of any councillor to do such, could result in them being held in the same position as the person committing the conflict of interest.
“I am not prepared to sit back and let this slide by.”