By Chris Lewis | Vol. 31 No. 49 (February 20 2019)
Two councillors in Conception Harbour were the subject of a possible conflict of interest situation Tuesday.
A packed gallery of residents was on hand for the town’s public council meeting at which the matter involving councillors Judy Ratchford and Tim Wade was addressed.
It stemmed from anonymous complaints received by the town in mid-January alleging that both Wade and Ratchford were in a conflict of interest in voting on matters relating to the town’s marina, particularly with the berthing of boats in the harbour.
After the meeting, Mayor Craig Williams said the allegations were taken very seriously by council, given that the repercussions for a member of council being in conflict of interest is the vacation of their seat, which would ultimately leave council with two less members until the seats were filled again.
“The concern is that Coun. Tim Wade’s son had a berth, as well as Coun. Ratchford’s husband, who also had a berth up there,” explained Williams. “The concern was that these two councillors were voting on matters relating to the marina, such as funding and things like that. I suppose there were some residents out there who felt as though they shouldn’t be voting on those issues, especially using taxpayers’ money.”
While Wade and Ratchford both did not have berths themselves at the marina, the main question being posed in this case was whether or not there was a monetary interest, and whether or not taxpayer dollars were being used to fund the marina and the 42 berths available at the marina.
Ultimately, this was found to not be the case, and the two councillors were found to not be in a conflict of interest, a decision that seemed to be welcomed by most of the spectators in the gallery.
“We had discussions in a privileged meeting, and all three parties – the Town, and the two councillors in question – were represented and had their say,” Williams said. “After about an hour and a half of discussion, we went over the details, and ultimately found that the two councillors were not in conflict in this situation… With conflict of interest, you’ve got to look at the perceived monetary gain or loss. There are rules to follow, and they were followed, and this is the decision we eventually came to.”
The matter was the first item on Tuesday night’s agenda and was met with a unanimous decision by council to see both councillors retain their seats. When the decision was stated by councillors, the full gallery exploded into a round of applause, expressing support for Ratchford and Wade.