At the Feb.7 budget meeting, council was asked to make a decision on a motion to increase the funding for the Lillooet District Historical Society. The Lillooet Historical Society operates the Lillooet Museum and Visitor Centre.
The Society was asking for an increase of $4400.00 in addition to the $22,000 stated in the budget for a total of $26,400.00. After a discussion by council the motion was called by Mayor Busse.
The motion read: That council does notinclude the request for an additional $4400 in funding from the Lillooet Museum and Visitor Centre in the 2019 budget.
This motion was passed with a 3-2 vote of Council. Meaning three members of Council said no to the increase and two members said yes to the $4400.00 increase.
The two who voted YES were Mayor Busse and Councillor Hopfl.
In my view, Mayor Busse was in Conflict of Interest because his wife, Vera Busse, is the President of the Lillooet District Historical Society.
The legislation states: “A direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the matter”. I believe Mayor Busse should have recused himself from the conversation and the vote.
Councillor Hopfl is a member of the historical society and she is council’s representative to the society. Being council’s representative does not constitute grounds of conflict of interest but I believe being a member of the society does. Combine the two together and you have a perception by the public that the ‘fix is in’. Councillor Hopfl should have used the adage ‘it is better to error on the side of caution’ and she should have removed herself from the conversation and the vote.
This is the Achilles heel of all elected officials when dealing with conflict of interest. More often than not it is the perception of the public that will bring down the elected official rather than the actual conflict of interest.
In this instance the majority vote was the correct one.
Councillor Hopfl noted that she will bring this motion back later this year after the budget has been passed.
I would suggest that neither Mayor Busse nor Councillor Hopfl take part in the discussion and the vote in any matter to do with the Lillooet District Historical Society.
It should also be noted that the letter from the Lillooet Museum and Visitor Centre requesting the increase of $4400.00 was signed by the secretary and not the president of the society, Vera Busse.