Lantzville councillors vote down motion on conflict of interest

Lantzville councillors voted 4-3 last week against having legal counsel begin proceedings on declaration for disqualification.

The District of Lantzville will not begin a process to remove members of council from office.

Lantzville councillors voted 4-3 last week against having the district staff contact legal counsel to begin proceedings on filing a declaration for disqualification from office.

Made by Coun. John Coulson, the motion came on the heels of a previously defeated motion that asked staff to prepare a report outlining what would happen when councillors who had previously declared themselves in conflict on an issue, then voted on the same issue at a later date.

While reading the disqualification motion, Coulson voiced his concerns that councillors Dot Neary and Bob Colclough had voted on motions related to the proposed Foothills development when they had previously declared themselves in conflict.

Coulson told councillors that he understands that a declaration for disqualification is extremely serious, but said it was necessary.

“There have been a number of brushes with potential conflict of interest over the past few months,” he said. “The Nanaimo water, the Foothills development and now adherence to the established processes in the Community Charter around participation in council matters once a conflict of interest has been declared.”

Coulson said he believed the two councillors may not have followed the charter’s rules on how to rejoin discussions on an issue in which they previously declared a conflict, adding that it affected the vote outcome.

“Their participation after having declared a conflict related to the Foothills development prevented council from receiving timely advice with respect to existing polices,” he said.

Colclough said he found the motion offensive and said Coulson continues to make false claims.

“You keep slandering me … if I came in here with socks that didn’t match, I am sure you would say conflict of interest,” he said.

Colclough said declaring a conflict on one issue does not mean an individual is in conflict on all issues, adding he’s not in conflict.

“I am not in a conflict of interest. I would be the first person to walk out the door,” Colclough said. “I have a high level of integrity and professionalism and I have shown that here.”

Coun. Will Geselbracht called Coulson’s comments about Colclough and Neary slanderous and defamatory.

“This has been an ongoing campaign by councillor Coulson,” he said. “We are in a parliamentary democracy, if the vote is 4-3 or 5-2 or 6-1, that is the will of council.”

Coun. Mark Swain was disappointed in Coulson’s remarks about the voting.

“We speak of this 4-3 nonsense and that is exactly what it is,” he said. “If we were to … take everyone’s election platforms and put them on this table, you will have four naturally gravitating to one side and three naturally gravitating towards the other side. It is simple and this is a hell of a way to go about teamwork.”

Coun. Denise Haime said councillors can only vote on an issue on which they previously declared themselves in conflict when they present a legal letter clearing them. She said there is no middle ground when it comes to being in conflict.

“There is no such thing as having a substantive or not-substantive conflict. You either have one or you don’t,” she said. “It’s like being pregnant. You can’t be a little bit pregnant. You either are or you aren’t.”

Neary, Swain, Geselbracht and Colclough voted against the motion, while Coulson, Denise Haime and Mayor Colin Haime voted in favour.