Dave MacKenzie: Questions to Ask.

(AEN) - Some structures have been in place in Leduc for many years and many have served the community very well and for good reason.  But, once in a while, it is good to ask if processes could or should be changed.

Case in point: In Leduc, council members sit on a number of Boards of organization that are funded by the City.  Examples of such organizations include the MacLab Society, The EDA and the Chamber of Commerce. 

As elected Alderman, our over-arching duty is to represent the interests of the City, of taxpayers and residents. The potentially tricky point is that when anyone, including an Alderman,  sits on a Board as a director, the interest of the organization becomes their fiduciary and strictly legal responsibility.

What if the interests conflict?  For example, any budget question, or request for funding could be a conflict of interest. 

There are three ways to address this conflict of interest.  One is for the Alderman to recuse himself/herself from any votes that would create conflict or appearance of conflict of interest. This is currently being done to the best of my knowledge. The second is to make Alderman non-voting directors. The third is to not have Alderman sit on these Boards at all.

When an Alderman sits on a board, it assists to facilitate communication and understanding.  This is the reason the arrangements have been encouraged in the past. The problem is that it is very hard for the Alderman not to be influenced to support the organization  to an extent that they are no longer objective.  It also creates issues with the form of communication between the organization and Council as a whole, where most information is attained/filtered through the Council member, sometimes well and sometimes not so well. There is perhaps not the same emphasis on formal reporting to all of Council, when there is a more of an arm's length relationship.

My view is that there have been many instances where the current arrangement has not served the City well and other times it has.  I believe we need to address this process more formally to ensure processes and policies are clear.  At the end of the day, the Alderman's responsibility is to the City and not to any organization. Can he/she really fully serve or properly serve as a Board member if the interests of the City is his/her ultimate responsibility?  Nothing in life is perfect and there is always a struggle to find directors to sit on Boards. Often, Alderman are needed to make Boards viable. Nevertheless, we need to review this policy area so that everyone has a common understanding of the principles involved.  In my personal opinion, there are cases where it would be best not to have Council members sitting as Directors.

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