Council says deputy mayor did not breach the rules
Grand Falls-Windsor Windsor Deputy Mayor Barry Manuel has been found not to be in a conflict of interest for his involvement in votes and discussions regarding the Corduroy Brook Enhancement Association.
© Andrea Gunn photo
Deputy Mayor Barry Manuel.
Manuel asked for a vote at Tuesday’s regular meeting of council, as per section 209 of the Newfoundland and Labrador Municipalities Act that states when a councillor is in doubt of whether or not he or she is in a conflict of interest, council can decide by majority vote and the matter will be considered final.
Manuel left the room for the vote. After some discussion, council unanimously agreed that he was not in a conflict of interest.
The deputy mayor had been under fire recently after it came to light that he had been involved in discussions, as well as votes, dealing with funding for the not-for-profit Corduroy Brook Enhancement Association (CBEA) where he is employed as Executive Director.
In this year’s budget, which Manuel voted to adopt, the town provided an annual $40,000 grant and designated funds from its multi-year capital works program, for a new $1 million building to house the CBEA.
The proposed new building is listed second in priority for 2015. If completed, the building would be owned by the town, like the CBEA’s present location on Main Street.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting it was noted during the discussion prior to the vote that Manuel had, in fact, asked his fellow councillors when discussing funding in committee whether or not he was in conflict by providing information and voting. At the time it was decided that it was not.
Manuel told the Advertiser after Tuesday’s meeting he was pleased with outcome of the vote and the support of his fellow councillors.
“Obviously I look forward to putting it behind me and moving on,” he said. ”I’m here to represent the people of Grand Falls-Windsor, and that’s what I want to continue to do.”
Manuel said although he has been found to not be in a conflict of interest, he is not taking the vote as a carte blanche in the future to discuss anything related to the CBEA.
He said he will take each matter on a case-by-case basis and consult with his colleagues before any discussion takes place.
“I’ll proceed as any councillor should and be cognizant of what we’re discussing and whether or not it needs to be addressed in terms of conflict,” Manuel said.
Mayor Al Hawkins, who previously expressed his disagreement with claims that Manual was in a conflict of interest, said he wasn’t surprised with the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.
“In committee when this discussion came up (Manuel) had clearly asked if he was in a conflict, and the committee said he wasn’t. I knew he had basically the approval of council and committee,” Hawkins said. “He did the right thing tonight, put it to bed, council made the decision…and we’ll just move on.”
Not everyone is satisfied with the decision, however. Grand Falls-Windsor resident Dave Barker was one of the people who originally raised concerns about Manuel’s status on council and votes regarding his employer. He said he believes, in the future, Manuel should always excuse himself on votes regarding the CBEA.
“As far as I’m concerned, I still think there is a conflict,” he said.