RM Mckillop – Council Meeting – May 16, 2023 – Vote on motion Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

May 16th, 2023

The RM of McKillop Council has found new Councilor Mark Strong in a conflict of interest after a complaint was filed with the RM because Strong participated in a vote on a new campground development in the RM. 

Councillor Strong ran on a responsible development platform in the RM. He and his wife, Marcia Strong, own the Rowan’s Ridge Seasonal RV Resort just outside Rowan’s Ravine Provincial Park. 

Strong has been in a battle with the RM that started before coming to Council in 2022 when voters decisively put him at the council table, beating out incumbent Gary Dixon in a vote of 90 – 22. Strong has been a vocal advocate for development after he experienced protracted delays with the RM when trying to get his development approved and running. The Strongs are currently challenging an RM fee bylaw in court. Strong is also the chair of the RM’s Planning and Economic Development committee. 

During discussions around a new campground development that had taken several years to get to a decision, Councilor Howard Arndt, who had not been in support of the development, cautioned Strong’s involvement in discussions. Strong has maintained that he was not gaining anything from participating in development discussions and that he ran on a development platform. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, when Council went into closed session to decide on the matter, they deliberated for 45 minutes. When they returned, Councilor Arndt made a motion that the RM had determined the ethics complaint was substantiated because it was in a conflict of interest with section 143 of the Municipalities Act regarding pecuniary interest. The council will reprimand Strong and require him to attend conflict of interest training within 90 days. Council voted unanimously in favour of the motion.

LMT asked Arndt about the motion. He said, “Because it was in-camera I can’t say a whole lot. Other than we went through the complaint, we went through the requirement in the Act and determined that we felt that the ethics complaint was appropriate and substantiated based on the requirements under the Act. In fact, we were of the opinion he was in a conflict of interest.”

Arndt said, when asked about how a person can be in a pecuniary conflict of interest.“He voted on the approval of another campground and he shouldn’t have done that..Simply what it is, he, for his own purposes, he could be the deciding vote that prevents that campground from going forward. Which then benefits him.”

Arndt said council didn’t seek legal advice on the matter. “Its straight forward and simple when you read the act. Because it simply says if you are a controlling interest and you do something that “may,” it doesn’t say “will” or “has.” It says “may either affect you positively or negatively,” you are in a conflict of interest..But you don’t even have to have done it. The fact is that you participated in it. You should’ve stepped away from it. Also if you heard the ultimate decision was that we had determined that councillor Strong will have to take training which we will set up…we could have gone the whole nine yards and asked him to resign, if not, we could choose then to take him to court. We chose not to go that route.” Arnd’t wouldn’t comment on whether other councillors wanted to go that route. 

When asked about the decision, Councilor Strong said, “I don’t agree that they made a proper decision. I had nothing to gain from it. Period… I possibly invited more competition for myself even by doing it. I was following my moral compass as  I ran on a platform of responsible development. The development looks responsible for the RM. We are going to create more commercial tax dollars for the RM.”

When asked if he would abide by the council’s decision, he said he would appeal.

By Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 07, 2023 at 09:45

This item reprinted with permission from   Last Mountain Times   Nokomis, Saskatchewan
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