Gan­der coun­cil­lor ad­dresses con­flict of in­ter­est al­le­ga­tions

The Beacon (Gander) - - Front Page - BY ADAM RAN­DELL Adam.ran­dell@tc.tc

The Town of Gan­der has no com­ment on con­flict of in­ter­est al­le­ga­tions sur­round­ing Coun­cil­lor Wayne Loren­zen or the coun­cil mat­ter that sparked the claim.

On Nov. 25, 2015, Loren­zen voted in fa­vor of the town en­ter­ing the Nav Canada Tax Agree­ment. He was an em­ployee of Nav Canada at the time.

A res­i­dent, who Loren­zen will not name, noted this fact and com­plained to the town ap­prox­i­mately two weeks ago.

The back­ground

Af­ter a lost court case in­volv­ing the as­sess­ment of spe­cial pur­pose prop­er­ties, the town was told it had to re­fund Nav Canada $537,000 in taxes for the pe­riod 2013-2015.

As a way of re­solv­ing the is­sue, Nav Canada pro­posed that the town im­ple­ment land­ing fees in­stead of charg­ing taxes on the as­sessed value of the prop­erty.

Ac­cord­ing to the min­utes of Nov. 25, 2015 meeting, “the town would re­ceive $8 per itin­er­ant flight land­ing at Gan­der In­ter­na­tional Air­port. This would equate to es­sen­tially the same level of rev­enue we would re­ceive now if the re­vised as­sess­ment stays as is. There will be an es­ca­la­tor clause in the agree­ment whereby the $8 will be changed each year by the same per­cent­age as the com­mer­cial prop­erty tax changes.”

By en­ter­ing into the agree­ment, Nav Canada would drop its ap­peal in which it claimed its prop­erty was worth ap­prox­i­mately half of the re­vised as­sess­ment.

All seven coun­cil­lors at­tended the meeting and voted unan­i­mously in favour of the agree­ment.

Con­flict

At the time, Loren­zen didn’t think he was in a con­flict of in­ter­est po­si­tion.

“Con­flict for us meant I stood to re­ceive a mon­e­tary ben­e­fit for the de­ci­sion I made on coun­cil,” he ex­plained. “I was not a man­ager, I was a front-line em­ployee at the time, pro­tected by col­lec­tive agree­ment. There was no mon­e­tary gain.”

Stand­ing to gain no mon­e­tary ben­e­fit when vot­ing is a re­quire­ment of the New­found­land and Labrador Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act.

How­ever, the act also states that a coun­cil­lor can­not vote on or speak to mat­ters if “The coun­cil­lor is an of­fi­cer, em­ployee or agent of an in­cor­po­rated or un­in­cor­po­rated com­pany, or other as­so­ci­a­tion of per­sons, that has a mon­e­tary in­ter­est in the mat­ter.”

Not hav­ing any­thing to gain per­son­ally, that as­pect of con­flict of in­ter­est wasn’t no­ticed by Loren­zen, the rest of coun­cil or the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“If I felt I would have been in con­flict, based on mon­e­tary ben­e­fit, I would have ex­cused my­self,” he said. “We never made an em­ployee con­nec­tion…”

He said sole re­spon­si­bil­ity for that slip-up rests with him.

“I feel very bad for the po­si­tion that my mis­take has put the Town of Gan­der in, on all lev­els,” he said. “I thought I was sup­port­ing a great new pol­icy for the Town of Gan­der that ben­e­fited ev­ery­body.”

Now, while Loren­zen re­spects a res­i­dent’s rights to hold coun­cil ac­count­able, he said he feels some­what tar­geted by the in­di­vid­ual.

He con­tends the man has been dis­grun­tled ever since coun­cil ex­pro­pri­ated land be­long­ing to the man last year.

He also said he and the man had an al­ter­ca­tion at work years prior.

Loren­zen will plead his case at a coun­cil hear­ing March 21 and a de­ci­sion will be made at the March 22 coun­cil meeting.

If Loren­zen is found to have been in a con­flict of in­ter­est, he will have to va­cate his seat and won’t be able to run in a mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion for two years.

If that hap­pens, he says, “I’ll have the op­por­tu­nity to ap­peal this and I most likely will.” His aim would be to be given a re­duced penalty that would al­low him to run in Septem­ber’s elec­tion.

Mean­while, he said he’s been get­ting sup­port in the com­mu­nity.

“The re­sponse has been over­whelm­ing,” he said. “It’s amaz­ing, ac­tu­ally.”

FILE PHOTO

Fol­low­ing con­flict of in­ter­est al­le­ga­tions, Gan­der Coun­cil­lor Wayne Loren­zen will go be­fore coun­cil on March 21 to plead his case.

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