Part 4, Division – 6 and 7 of the Community Charter Act [SBC 2003] Chapter 26, Sections 100 through 113 explains in detail the Mayor and Councillors various obligations in respect of “Conflict-of-Interest” and “Disqualification”.
As any of you who have been monitoring the issue of “conflict-of-interest” already know, Mayor Mussatto and councillors Keating and Buchanan took substantial financial contributions from developers in the last election cycle. Since that election cycle, all three have continued to vote in relation to matters involving those same developers. In the case of Mayor Mussatto, he did in fact cast the final and deciding vote approving the Onni project in a 4 / 3 split vote of council in relation to the development at 13th and Lonsdale.
Onni, a subsidiary of RPMG, and a De Cotis family enterprise, is related to the Pinnacle group, which were yet another large campaign finance donor to the Mussatto Keating Buchanan municipal slate in the 2011 election. The night the Onni matter came before council for a public meeting and vote, and after heated public input and debate in which the Mayor and various councillors were accused of being in a “conflict-of-interest”, first councillor Buchanan and later Mayor Mussatto each separately admitted they had taken campaign contributions from RPMG.
Only then did they both finally admit that RPMG was indeed the parent company of Onni. Until this admission first made by councillor Buchanan, no one in council chambers knew for certain that RPMG and Onni were one and the same enterprise. Councillor Keating never did admit that RPMG, Onni and Pinnacle were related in any way, and that he had taken money from Pinnacle, and that he to was in a conflict. See Campaign Finance disclosure form of mayor Mussatto.
It was only later that we learned that on or about the same time as the Onni vote came before council, RPMG had also made a donation to the NDP provincial election campaign in the amount of $78,500.00.
Councillor Keating has now orally admitted to me that $5,000 of the $78,500 RPMG donation transferred through the NDP party to the election campaign of Craig Keating, in his run for MLA in the provincial riding of North Vancouver Lonsdale. I note that the $5,000 political campaign donation of RPMG is not identified on the campaign finance disclosure form submitted to Elections BC in the last provincial election cycle by candidate Craig Keating. I wunder why that is?
The night of the Onni vote, BCTV reported live from City council chambers, broadcasting an interview with Mayor Mussatto in which the Mayor declared he had consulted with a lawyer, and he had been advised that as long as he declared the donation and the link to Onni publicly, he was no longer in a position of conflict and could freely participate in the Onni vote.
With all due respect to the Mayor, I say his position is simply untenable. A conflict is not expunged by disclosing its existence. In fact, if anything the conflict is confirmed and compels a person following the spirit and intent of the Community Charter Act to recuse themselves from any participation in a vote effecting that donor. The Mayor and councillors Keating and Buchanan should all have recused themselves from voting on the Onni development proposal. None of them did, and indeed, Mayor Mussatto cast the final and deciding vote, despite the conflict, causing the development proposal to pass by a 4/3 split vote in favour of the project, which granted Onni the single largest density bonus in the City’s history, for any privately owned development project, at the lowest comparable amenity contribution level ever paid since the City first began actively horse-trading “density-for-dollars”.
In my opinion, the failure of Mayor Mussatto and Councillors Keating and Buchanan to proactively disclose the tie between Onni, Pinnacle and RPMG the first time this matter came before council was wrong. In my further opinion, the Mayor and councillors Keating and Buchanan should all have recused themselves from any participation in the Onni decision making process. Their collective failure to do so was wrong.