The City of Hamilton’s advisory committees are now defined as “Local Boards” under the Ontario Municipal Act and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

When acting in their volunteer roles at advisory committees,  resident committee members must fully comply with conflict of interest rules.

Members must not only recuse themselves from voting. They must also recuse themselves entirely from all discussions.

During a recent advisory committee meeting, two members declared conflicts of interest. Neither spoke to the items.

However, in declaring their conflict, one of the members stated, “I would like to comment, but I might have to refrain from voting.”

The MCIA states a member who declares a conflict of interest “(b) shall not take part in the discussion of, or vote on any question in respect of the matter; and shall not attempt in any way whether before, during or after the meeting to influence the voting on any such question.”

In the past, advisory committees could conduct their meetings with a degree of informality.

In the rare instances of the appearance of a conflict of interest, advisory committee members would refrain from voting but share their thoughts.

Often, the conflicts result from the member’s employment or other volunteer activities.

I cannot think of a single instance of a personal financial interest being involved.

Nonetheless, now that they are Local Boards, advisory committee members need support from the City to ensure they know the rules – both training in advance of meetings and qualified staff support during meetings.

Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before an avoidable conflict of interest scandal occurs.

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Published: March 19, 2023
Last edited: March 19, 2023
Author: Joey Coleman
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