Council passes agreement with CUPE 882 following debate about conflict of interest

Herald file photo

The City of Prince Albert’s new agreement with municipal inside workers passed quickly at Monday’s council meeting, although there was some debate about the vote itself.

The vote on Item 11.14 began with Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp telling council she was not declaring a conflict of interest, and would be voting on the agreement. That declaration led to Mayor Greg Dionne calling for a two-minute sidebar with City Clerk Sherry Person.

After the sidebar, Dionne told council the City had received independent legal advice that Lennox-Zepp was in a conflict of interest. Lennox-Zepp, however, said she had received her own legal advice, and was confident she could vote.

“The Cities Act Section 114 lays out our requirements and as conflict of interest, if there are any favourable interests, opportunity for interest for myself or a family member, and so I am intending on the basis of my legal advice to stay on this file,” she told council. “However, of course, as an ongoing basis, we all have an obligation to assess each vote individually if we are indeed in a conflict of interest.”

Lennox-Zepp’s husband, Craig Thebaud, is listed as a staff advisor for Region 2 of the Prince Albert CUPE Area Office on the CUPE Healthcare Workers Local 5430 web page. Thebaud has been assigned to work with CUPE 882 in the past, but Lennox-Zepp said he is not currently a member of the CUPE team negotiating with the City of Prince Albert.

Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp reads a motion on screen during a Prince Albert budget meeting — Daily Herald file photo.

“When my spouse is an active member on the file, then I have been and continue to do so properly recuse myself,” she said.

Mayor Greg Dionne said Lennox-Zepp needs to be prepared for the consequences of her actions.

“All I can say is govern yourself accordingly, and prepare for the action,” he said during Monday’s meeting.

Municipal councillors are required to disclose a conflict of interest under The Cities Act Section 114. They must disclose their interest every time the matter is brought before council. If absent, they must disclose the issue at the next council meeting.

Legislation prevents councillors in a conflict of interest of voting on the issue, or participating in discussions, whether they be formal or informal.

According to Saskatchewan’s Ombudsman, councillors who fail to disclose a conflict of interest must resign from council and are not eligible to be nominated or elected to any municipal council for 12 years.

Council members have a personal responsibility to decide whether they are in a conflict of interest, according to the Ombudsman.