No violation for McQuaker

Last Wednesday, Emo Council were given closure about a conflict of interest investigation involving Emo Mayor Harold McQuaker.

McQuaker was being investigated by the Township’s integrity commissioner after an Emo resident filed an application on July 15, 2020 alleging that McQuaker contravened section 5 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA).

Section 5 of the MCIA requires that a member of a municipal council disclose a financial interest in a matter that is the subject of consideration of the council before that item is considered at the council meeting. The member cannot take part in the discussion of the item or any vote if this is the case.

The conflict of interest allegation began at the October 29, 2019 regular council meeting, when was a petition was submitted to council by an Emo resident to have a private culvert connected to an existing town culvert on a municipal drainage system.

When council approved the residents request to connect to the municipal culvert at the June 9, 2020 council meeting, it came to the complainant’s attention that, on July 4, 2020, Harold McQuaker Ent. Ltd. had undertaken the finishing work of the install of the private culvert to the municipal culvert for the Emo resident.

Harold McQuaker Ent. Ltd. being a business owned and operated by the McQuaker family, the purpose of the inquiry was to determine if McQuaker had a financial interest in the installation of the culvert requested by the Emo resident.

During the March 10, 2021 regular Emo council meeting, the integrity commissioner concluded that McQuaker’s pecuniary interest (derived through his son’s company) was sufficiently remote that it did not influence his decision making.

Accordingly, it was not necessary for McQuaker to make declarations of interest and refrain from participation in the matter under Section 5 of the MCIA.

No recommendations were made by the integrity commissioner but he commended council for its decision to have a refresher course on the MCIA.

In order to determine if violations of the MCIA and the associated portions of the Code of Conduct did occur, the integrity commissioner obtained and reviewed the application, the response to the allegations from McQuaker, and the Emo Township meeting minutes of council meetings held on Oct. 29, 2019, Nov. 1, 2019, Nov. 12, 2019, Feb. 11, 2020, June 9, 2020 and June 23, 2020.

These are only a few of the items reviewed by the integrity commissioner.

During the Emo council meetings leading up to the approval of the request on June 9, 2020, there were no declarations of pecuniary interest recorded.

There were concerns raised by staff and members of council at a special council meeting held on Nov.1, 2019 in which McQuaker participated in.

Witnesses confirm they heard McQuaker’s statement that he would be assisting the resident with work on the culvert. The resident was not in attendance at the Nov.1 meeting but said he had not retained a contractor to perform the installation work at that time as the connection to the Emo culvert had not been approved by Emo Township council.

Based upon a councillor’s witness statement, the councillor suggested to McQuaker, after the meeting, that McQuaker should consider whether or not he is in a conflict of interest position relating to the request for the culvert connection.

The witness indicates that they told McQuaker that if businesses owned by his son were involved, the conflict would continue to exist.

At the regular council meeting held on Nov. 12, 2019, McQuaker apologized to council and made a statement that he should have declared a conflict regarding prior discussions at council on the culvert installation issue.

McQuaker also recommended that the CAO/Clerk-Treasurer contact the integrity commissioner or the municipal lawyer and request they provided a refresher course to council on the MCIA. Council accepted McQuaker’s apology and agreed that a refresher on the MCIA would be appropriate.

The resident who made the culvert request retained Shane McQuaker Trucking which is owned and operated McQuaker’s son.

The total value of the work performed by Shane McQuaker Trucking was approximately $1,200. The work was performed on or around the weeks of June 29 to July 5, 2020.

During the course of the project, Shane McQuaker Trucking did utilize some equipment owned by McQuaker Enterprise, however no rental fees were paid to McQuaker Enterprise, as father and son often share equipment.

By Natali Trivuncic
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
ntrivuncic@fortfrances.com