Stettler County probes possible conflict of interest

County of Stettler has called in a lawyer to look into a potential conflict of interest by a councillor who denies any wrongdoing.

Council says in a Nov. 10 statement that it “has reason to believe Coun. Ernie Gendre failed to disclose the existence of a pecuniary interest in a matter before council at the Sept. 14, 2016 council meeting in accordance with Section 171 of the Municipal Government Act …

The statement goes on to say that “council directs administration to obtain legal advice on available options.”

County chief administrative officer Tim Fox said the councillor voted on a contract to extend a water line to a new public works shop. The winning contractor subsequently sub-contracted Gendre’s son to do some directional drilling on the project.

Under the Municipal Government Act, a councillor is required to disclose a pecuniary (financial) interest in a matter before council. A pecuniary interest is defined as a matter that a councillor knows or should know that it could affect the councillor’s family.

In those cases, the councillor must abstain from voting and, in most cases, leave the room during the discussion and vote.

Gendre said when he voted on the project, his son, Ryan Gendre, who owns Diablo Directional Drilling, had not been sub-contracted.

Since he did not know — and nor did his son — that Diablo would get the drilling contract, “I did not believe I had any conflict of interest in there, or pecuniary interest.”

Gendre argues he could not know when he voted that his son’s firm — in which Ernie has no financial interest — would submit the winning quote on the project.

“I have no control over who (the main contractor) contacts or who he sub-contracts on there.”

Fox said the law, not the county, ultimately decides whether the councillor was in the wrong.

Council’s attention was drawn to a possible conflict of interest in a letter to the county from a group of six ratepayers.

They claim that some of Gendre’s construction equipment was working on the public works building project, which they allege is a conflict of interest.

Gendre said the equipment was not his, but belonged to his son.

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