What is the difference between a perceived conflict of interest and a real one?

A 5Cs follower has sent us an email asking a question on the rules about “conflict of interest”. The Coldstream citizen asked if Councilor Stephanie Hoffman was in conflict of interest as the result of the Westkal Road reconstruction because her employer, who lives on that road, received substantial benefits of the decisions made with respect to the taxpayer funded improvements.

Was there any disclosure by Councilor Hoffman on a potential conflict of interest at any time when the matter was before council? We found nothing. The minutes show Councilor Hoffman participated in all the discussions on the Westkal Road project that took place on:

July 6, 2018 – Council Meeting

November 26, 2018 – Committee of the Whole Meeting April 26, 2019, Council Meeting (a presentation in favor of proposed changes was made by Ms. Huffman’s Employer )

July 20,2020 – Committee of the Whole Meeting

August 24, 2020 – Council Meeting

June 28, 2021 – Council Meeting (Councilor Hoffman seconded the motion to award the $985,213.90 plus applicable taxes contract to rebuild the Westkal road)


Declaration required
8 If a council member attending a meeting considers that they are not entitled to participate in the discussion of a matter, or to vote on a motion or question in respect of a matter because the member has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the matter or another interest in the matter that constitutes a conflict of interest, the member must declare this and state in general terms the reason why the member considers this to be the case.

And the Bylaw follows up with several rules and processes that must be followed upon a disclosure.

Pecuniary Interest means the opportunity, directly or indirectly, to profit or share in any profit derived from a transaction in the subject securities. It seems clear that, there was no reason to consider financial benefits on her part.

So, was there “another interest”? Does this constitute a “perceived conflict of interest”?

Perceived conflicts of interest include situations where it could be perceived, or appear to a reasonable person, that an Board member’s personal interests could improperly or unduly influence the performance of their duties and responsibilities.

We can find no record of the disclosure by Councilor Hoffman to resolve the matter.

Bylaw 1742 goes on to state:

Disqualification from holding office
19 A council member who contravenes sections 13, 14, 15, 16 or 18 of this bylaw is disqualified from holding office described in, and for the period established by, section 108.1
[Disqualification from office for contravening conflict rules] of the Community Charter, unless the contravention was done inadvertently or because of an error in judgement made in good faith.

At the heart of these questions is, who is monitoring or advising Councilor Hoffman on conflict of interest? Was our Mayor or CAO aware of Ms. Hoffman’s place of employment? Were they aware of the Westkal resident’s relationship to Councilor Hoffman? Did she mention her relationship to any of the council staff or the Coldstream Council? The matter raised by the concerned Coldstream citizen is an important one.

The relationship in question is not hard to find, Photographs are readily identifiable on the website of her place of employment. Councilor Hoffman was put in a position where her personal interests could have improperly or unduly influenced her responsibility to the taxpayers of Coldstream, and it reflects badly on the Council.

Is this an issue of conflict of interest … or simply ignorance of the Council procedures when conducting council business. We leave it for you to decide.

Back to our question:

What is the difference between a perceived conflict of interest and a real one?

OUR VIEW…. There is no difference!

Footnote : In our review of the various minutes in researching the issue of Westkal Road, we found that only Councilor Enns opposed this project on both August 24, 2020 ( the funding source) and on June 28, 2021 (the contract award).

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