Stettler County probes potential conflict of interest

A Stettler County councillor says he was not in conflict of interest on water line vote.

By PAUL COWLEY

Advocate staff

A County of Stettler councillor caught up in a controversy over a potential conflict of interest defended himself in a special council meeting this week.

The county said last month it was looking into whether Coun. Ernie Gendre improperly failed to disclose a pecuniary (financial) interest when a water line contract was awarded on Sept. 14.

Gendre’s son Ryan’s company, Diablo Directional Boring Ltd., was later sub-contracted to do work on the project.

Ernie Gendre maintains he did nothing wrong by voting on the project because at the time neither he nor his son knew that Diablo would be awarded a contract.

Gendre said he made his case at the Wednesday meeting and then council went in camera, without him or his brother, Joe, who also sits on council and excused himself.

Council did not make any motions on the potential conflict other than to refer the issue to the Dec. 14 regular meeting of council, said county spokesperson Niki Thorsteinsson.

Gendre, who has a construction firm, said at the special council meeting he loaned his son some equipment for the project. But no money changed hands and Ernie has no financial interest in his son’s company.

The councillor is confident he did not break any rules and will be exonerated, adding it is not clear in some cases as to what constitutes a pecuniary interest.

“It’s, ‘I’ll say a very grey area,’ of do you or don’t you (declare a conflict and not vote).”

Given what he knows now about the public sensitivity to any possibility of conflict he would remove himself from the vote if a similar situation arose, he said on Thursday.

The county’s attention was drawn to the issue when a group of six ratepayers signed a letter raising the conflict question after they saw Ernie’s equipment on the water line work site.

Gendre said he will continue to do what he always has on council, represent ratepayers and ensure their tax dollars are spent wisely.

During the special meeting, Gendre asked for more information on a previous contract awarded by council. That is expected to come back to the Dec. 14 meeting also.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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