Councillor freed of conflict shackles

CITY COUNCILLOR Bruce Martindale isn’t in a conflict of interest because of his business and his support of a local non-profit group’s plan to buy the Shames Mountain ski facility.

  • Sep. 7, 2011 8:00 a.m.

CITY COUNCILLOR Bruce Martindale isn’t in a conflict of interest because of his business and his support of a local non-profit group’s plan to buy the Shames Mountain ski facility.

A legal opinion obtained by the city has cleared  McBike bicycle sales and service shop owner  Martindale after he voluntarily stepped away from a council debate and vote Aug. 22 into whether it should give My Mountain Co-op $91,000 to help it buy Shames.

During a CBC Radio interview that morning, Martindale indicated continued operation of Shames Mountain was important to his business. That was enough for mayor Dave Pernarowski and city councillors to suggest that even a perceived conflict of interest could be a problem.

Martindale, who introduced the motion to give the co-op the money, at first challenged the conflict suggestion, saying he did not sell  ski-related equipment, but then voluntarily left the council chambers.

He is a strong advocate of the co-op’s purchase plan.

Citing provisions of provincial freedom of information legislation which permit governments to withhold legal opinions and advice, city officials did not release the full opinion received.

A synopsis was released indicating the legal opinion keyed on a section of the provincial community charter which governs municipal governments.

The section concerns what’s called a “community of interest” in which a councillor has an interest in an issue in common with other electors.

“Councillor Martindale’s interest in [My Mountain Co-op]/Shames Mountain is an interest he shares in common with every business owner who might benefit from the additional tourism and enhanced economy generated by an operating ski facility,” said the statement.

“His pecuniary interest would likely be considered minimal or too remote because he does not sell merchandise directly related to skiing/snowboarding,” the statement continued.

And while Martindale’s CBC Radio interview indicated that he could benefit personally, creating a perceived conflict of interest, the city statement said “the law recognizes that where these interests are widely shared in a community, and are not unique to a council member, council members must be able to discharge their decision-making duties on behalf of the community.”

Mayor Dave Pernarowksi said he was pleased with the legal opinion obtained by the city.

“It shows Councillor Martindale is, in fact, not in a conflict of interest. The community of interest allows for a little bit of leeway,” he said.

“I’m pleased he will be able to join us,” the mayor added of Martindale’s ability to participate in tomorrow’s meeting between the city and My Mountain Co-op.

Even if Martindale had voted at the Aug. 22 meeting, the motion to provide My Mountain Co-op with $91,000 would still have been defeated.

That’s because the vote was 4-2 against. Had Martindale voted, the result would have been 4-3.

The 4-3 result was the same as it was Aug. 8 when a first motion to provide the co-op with $200,000 was rejected.