EDITORIAL: Potential conflict handled well

An unusual set of circumstances which recently unfolded in city hall deserve comment.

An unusual set of circumstances which recently unfolded in city hall deserve comment.

Through a corporation of which he is the sole director, a longtime Abbotsford businessman made political donations to the mayoral challenger and four incumbent councillors during last fall’s civic elections.

At the time, Paul Esposito also had a development proposal “in-stream” – that is, his project had been handled by city staff but not yet considered by council.

When Henry Braun became the new mayor, and the four incumbent councillors were re-elected, they were placed in a position where a potential Community Charter conflict of interest could be perceived when Esposito’s project came before them for consideration, due to the donations.

Such a situation would appropriately see councillors recuse themselves from a vote on the proposal, but in so doing, council would not have the necessary quorum.

Citizens are frequently disappointed and perturbed by politicians who fail to understand or appreciate conflict of interest situations, or more importantly, the public perception of bias which often arises.

In this case, a process existed to address the situation, and it was followed.

A BC Supreme Court order was obtained to allow the council members involved to vote, and they officially declared their potential conflict.

Voters and the media are quick to level criticism when elected representatives run afoul of the rules, or show a disdain for public optics.

Regardless of the amount of money donated in this case, which was minor – $1,000 for the mayor and $300 for each councillor – this had potential to create negative perceptions.

It may still do so for some, but this was an example of political transparency and observance of proper process.

Other councils and politicians should take note.