Seven politicians have agreed, in theory, to pay into a new regional economic plan.
Before representatives from Rossland to Fruitvale move ahead with a five-year agreement to fund local economic development, a few details need to be ironed out.
The first being, the renewed service must be clear of any appearance of impropriety because of the direct financial implications related to the proposal that over five years adds up to a $750,000 commitment.
With the Columbia Basin Trust now on board to finance $50,000 annually toward the economic resource, Trail would fund the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC) almost $70,000 each year; Area A, $25,000; Area B, $15,500; Rossland, $$27,000; Fruitvale $8,500 annually; Warfield, $7,300; and Montrose $4,700.
Following a service review in 2013, regional district representatives from the East End Services (EES), which is committee comprised of elected officials from those communities, decided to end the economic development service citing its high and unsustainable cost to taxpayers.
Even with a revamped less expensive proposal, some of the EES directors still sit on the LCIC board.
That means, there could be the appearance of conflict of interest with respect to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB) financial decisions that affect the LCIC.
Conversations ensued during the last few EES meetings in light of the B.C. Court of Appeal’s 2013 decision involving conflict of interest by local government elected officials.
In that case, (Schlenker v. Torgrimson) the court held that two elected officials (trustees) were in a conflict of interest under the Community Charter when they voted to “dedicate” money to a non-profit environmental society of which they were directors – actions that can be construed as personal gain.
So, before moving on to fund the new service, a restructure of the LCIC board is being considered in light of the Schlenker decision.
As it stands now, eight LCIC board members are nominated and appointed by the organization’s regulating body called the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society.
“Those political people who sit on the LCIC board have to vote on money, or a particular contract, have to excuse themselves or put alternatives in,” explained Trail Coun. and RDKB Director Robert Cacchioni. “They can’t be in the room for discussions or deliberations because they can be disqualified under the Schlenker decision. The board of directors is in control of signing contracts with the regional district, therefore they are in conflict.
The case now impacts boards of directors involved in decision making and contract negotiations, and puts mayors and councillors in a position where they can be investigated, and even have their position withdrawn, Cacchioni added.
Montrose council discussed LCIC re-structure options during the Monday night meeting, and agreed that no elected officials should sit on the LCIC board.
Cacchioni agrees with Montrose’s decision, but goes one step further.
“The LCIC should not contain any political appointees or administrators,” he said. “Because they tend to make decisions based on their own municipalities or areas. I would like ordinary working citizens interested in that type of thing to be on the board of directors. Remove the politics out of it.”
The matter will go before the EES members Oct 21 for a final decision.