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Hathaway denies she has a conflict

Incumbent discloses she owns Catalyst Paper shares

by Laura Walz editor@prpeak.com A City of Powell River councillor and candidate in the November 19 civic election denies she has a conflict of interest in issues dealing with Catalyst Paper Corporation.

On her Statement of Disclosure form, part of the nomination package filed at city hall, Maggie Hathaway disclosed she holds Catalyst shares.

George Orchiston is a concerned Powell River resident who has researched issues dealing with co-treatment, a proposal to have the city’s sewage treated at Catalyst’s Powell River division. He raised Hathaway’s disclosure at the October 20 committee-of-the-whole meeting during question period. He asked staff for an opinion on whether Hathaway has a conflict or not.

Marie Claxton, city clerk, explained it is a councillor’s responsibility to declare if he or she has a conflict in anything. “It’s not up to staff to determine,” she said. “It’s council’s responsibility.”

Hathaway said she doesn’t have a conflict. “I put them down there because I do own them,” she said. “They are so few that I attempted to divest myself of them and it cost me considerably more than they were worth to get rid of them.”

Hathaway added that she tried to legally transfer the shares to her son. “But it cost me so much more than what they were worth, I chose not to,” she said. “I don’t consider it a conflict. I don’t stand to have any gain financially no matter what Catalyst does, because there are so few.”

Hathaway also said she did seek legal counsel. “The advice I got was, no, there’s no conflict,” she said.

The Community Charter requires a council member to declare a conflict of interest if he or she has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter under consideration. If a council member has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter, he or she must not attend any part of a meeting during which the matter is under consideration, participate in any discussion of the matter or vote on the matter or attempt in any way to influence the voting of the matter, whether before, during or after a meeting.

The charter also defines exceptions from conflict restrictions, including one that states the pecuniary interest is so remote or insignificant that it can’t reasonably be viewed as likely to influence the council member.

Additionally, the charter sets out the procedure for making application to the BC Supreme Court to have a member declared disqualified if he or she is found to be in contravention of the rules related to restrictions on participation if in conflict. A municipality, by a two-thirds vote of council, or 10 or more electors of the municipality may make the application to the Supreme Court to have a person disqualified.