Too slow to declare conflict

At the last meeting of Fort Frances council, Mayor Dan Onichuk declared a conflict of interest in the application by Loblaws to rezone a piece of property located in the west end of town between Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart.
The mayor noted he was a minority shareholder in the corporation selling the property to Loblaws and, as such, had a pecuniary interest in the rezoning application.
But somehow, early in 2005, when the mayor lobbied council to build a sidewalk across the front of that property to Wal-Mart, he forgot about his interest in the property. Then in June of last year, at an open meeting of council, the mayor again did not indicate he had an interest in the property where the sidewalk was to be built.
At no time did the mayor declare a conflict of interest in the project that potentially added value to his property.
Town council initially began to plan for the sidewalk through the local improvement process, but in the end opted to have the citizens of Fort Frances pay for it.
Last June, the mayor was quoted as saying: “It’s a safety issue and it needs to be dealt with. This is not about catering to Wal-Mart.” He added that perhaps the town would have to dip into its reserves to fund the sidewalk project.
Big Muddy Enterprises, of which the mayor is a part, was on the hook for $7,000 in local improvement costs for the sidewalk before council agreed to fund it out of general revenues.
The mayor was too slow in not declaring his conflict of interest prior to that decision being made—and should not have been part of any discussions leading up to it.