After being accused of soliciting a bribe from someone who was applying for a short-term rental conditional-use permit, Municipality of Harrison Park Coun. Gloria Campbell has apologized to her fellow members of council and the community.

Jodi Miner, who owns a home in Onanole, said in a Nov. 30 meeting of council that she felt compelled to speak after what she allegedly witnessed at an earlier council meeting on Nov. 9. Miner claimed that at the meeting, Campbell solicited a bribe from someone who was applying for a short-term rental conditional-use permit, asking the applicant if they would donate to a golf tournament should the application be approved.

The conditional-use application in question was made by Tyler Plante, a Brandon-based businessman and realtor who was seeking approval to run short-term rentals for his family’s cabin in the municipality.

According to video footage of the Nov. 9 meeting, after more than an hour of councillors asking questions and residents speaking both in favour and in opposition to the application, Campbell asks Plante: “If you were successful in getting this short-term rental, would you like to donate to the golf tournament?”

“Sure,” Plante responds with a chuckle. “I’ll donate anyway.”

Campbell then follows up by asking if he has donated already, to which Plante repeats that he will donate anyway. The exchange, as seen on the recording of the meeting uploaded to YouTube, lasts approximately 12 seconds.

Miner also claimed to witness Campbell “laughing and carrying on” with the applicant after the meeting ended. The behaviour, Miner said, should require that Campbell recuse herself from future short-term rental application processes.

At a Nov. 15 meeting, Miner said she witnessed a “heated conversation” between Campbell and an unnamed community member.

“I specifically heard Coun. Campbell ask the community member where she lived. A response of ‘Countryside Estates’ was given, to which Coun. Campbell responded, ‘Yes, I know where that is, I have friends who live there, and I would vote against a short-term rental application in that residential area.’”

Reeve Ian Drul said at the Nov. 30 meeting that Miner’s claims were “hearsay.” He claimed he didn’t observe any of the events she shared with council.

However, Campbell acknowledged “remarks” during the Nov. 9 and Nov. 15 meetings in her apology, made at a council meeting on Wednesday.

“I am sorry for the negativity I have brought upon the municipality. My remarks were inappropriate, and I regret saying them. I commit myself to being more thoughtful in m words and actions,” Campbell said after Drul opened the meeting.

When the Sun asked Drul if he stood by his comment that Miner’s allegations against Campbell were hearsay, he said council would not be commenting on the matter.

“You heard my statement at the beginning of the meeting about conflict of interest, Gloria Campbell gave her statement, and that’s all we’re giving on it.” Miner also accused Coun. Steve Langston of a conflict of interest as the owner of short-term rentals.

The Sun found an Airbnb account for Langston and his wife Reghan listing two properties available to rent, one directly south of Onanole and the other southeast of the community.

Langston took to social media on Dec. 5 to state his voting on short-term rentals is not a conflict of interest.

“I have gone down the conflict-of-interest checklist, read extensively on the subject and consulted with multiple lawyers,” Langston wrote.

In June, Harrison Park council passed a resolution to adopt Bylaw 119, in which anyone running a short-term rental prior to May 31 must apply for a short-term rental licence for each property. Council then decides, on a case-by-case basis, whether to grant conditional-use permits for short-term rentals.

Langston said he would recuse himself if council were voting on his specific properties.

After talking with his lawyers, Langston said he believes voting on short-term rental applications doesn’t constitute a conflict of interest.

“I see no reason to recuse myself from voting,” he said.

At the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, Drul announced that both Campbell and Langston had been instructed to obtain their own independent legal council regarding Miner’s accusations.

“Individual members of council need to make the decision [as to] whether they could have an interested in the matter that is captured by the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act,” Drul said.

As Wednesday’s meeting progressed, another councillor was accused of conflict of interest with regards to voting on short-term rental conditional use bylaw applications. In a delegation, Trevor Wallin asked councillors Barry Skrudland and Wade Skolney what additional conditions within the current existing bylaw regarding short-term rentals they felt comfortable putting in to approve Wallin’s conditional-use licence.

In June, Harrison Park passed a resolution to adopt a bylaw that requires the licensing and regulation of short-term rentals. Any new STRs must apply for a conditional-use application and receive approval before a licence will be issued. This also applies to STRs that have operated since before May 1 of this year.

Drul informed Wallin that a question-and-answer period would not take place. Wallin went on to quote the Municipalities Act that states councillors must act “faithfully” and without “partiality.”

“I’d like you to just consider that,” Wallin said, before sharing a story about his family’s history in the Onanole area. After sharing his family history, he asked that Skrudland remove himself from voting on his STR application and every other STR application as well, due to Skrudland owning Riding Mountain House bed and breakfast in Onanole. Wallin also alleged that Skrudland ran for council on a promise to vote against every STR application.

At this point, Drul let Wallin know that his 15 minutes of presenting time were up and that municipal council was “working hard” on the issue of short-term rentals in the community.“All I’ve got to say is, this whole thing, we’ve been working our way through it this week … we’re all struggling … and like I said, nobody is happy.”

Although 10 short-term rental conditional use applications were up for deliberation at the meeting, council once again decided to put them off to another meeting — this time, one taking place on Jan. 11 at 11 a.m. — after Skrudland requested time to consult with his legal team regarding Wallin’s allegations.

The Sun was unable to find contact information for Miner. Langston, Campbell and Plante did not get back to the Sun after multiple messages were left since the Nov. 30 meeting on voicemail and email. The Sun was unable to find contact information for Wallin.

By Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Dec 15, 2022 at 07:03

This item reprinted with permission from   Brandon Sun   Brandon, Manitoba

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