Potential Conflict Of Interest – Duncan Council Meeting 15 June 2020

We believe the Mayor of Duncan, Michelle Staples, is in a potential conflict of interest regarding her actions in dealing with Agenda Item 7.8 of the City of Duncan Council Meeting of 15 June 2020. Agenda Item 7.8 of the City of Duncan Council Meeting is in regard to a Grant Application for a $10,000 Grant In Kind, made to the City of Duncan by the Cowchan Green Community Society on 8 June 2020. [Note: PDF]

Here is a link to the Agenda of the Duncan Council Meeting of 15 June 2020. Here is a link to the Minutes of the City of Duncan Council Meeting of 15 June 2020.
Here is a video of the City of Duncan Council Meeting of 15 June 2020:

Discussion of Agenda Item 7.8 begins at 59:58 of the video.

Agenda Item 7.8 reads as follows:

7.8. COVID-19 Grant Application – Cowichan Green Community – Neighbourhood Revitalization Project

  1. That Council approve the COVID-19 grant in aid to the Cowichan Green Community in the amount of $10,000 to support “City of Duncan Neighbourhood Revitalization” projects.

OR

  1. That Council deny the COVID-19 grant in aid to the Cowichan Green Community in the amount of $10,000 to support “City of Duncan Neighbourhood Revitalization” projects.

Here is a link to the $10,000 Grant Application made to the City of Duncan by the Cowichan Green Community Society on Society on 8 June 2020.

Here is a link to the City of Duncan Staff Recommendation on Agenda Item 7.8 on 8 June 2020.

Note that the Grant Application from the Cowichan Green Community Society is made by Judy Stafford, who is the Executive Director of the Cowichan Green Community Society and who has served in that position for several years.

Judy Stafford is also a close personal friend of Mayor Michelle Staples and has been a close personal friend of Mayor Michelle Staples for several years. Over the last several years, the Cowichan Green Community has also partnered on several projects with Social Planning Cowichan, of which Mayor Michelle Staples is the Executive Director.

City of Duncan Councillor Michelle Staples (photo: City of Duncan)
City of Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples (photo: City of Duncan)

Michelle Staples’ comments on Agenda Item 7.8 start at 1:02:37 of the video above. Here is a transcript of her comments:

“OK. Are there any other Council members who would like to speak to this?  Seeing none I would like to add my voice into supporting this Motion [note: Agenda Item 7.8. Grant Application from Cowichan Green Community Society].  I….I…. One of the things I see a lot of, and continue to receive a lot of calls from people in our community are to do neighbourhood projects and to… I think this is something, you know, I think that we’ve been talking about on and off for Council for many, many years about how to engage our citizens in a really meaningful way. And looking at the things they [the Cowichan Green Community] are talking about, this is a new hire. It looks like it does support, um, through the… it looks like it does support the, it’s a new hire through the Summer Student Grant and so it is a new hire. It’s only a new hire for sixteen weeks to support this project. And there have been a number of neighbourhoods who have wanted to apply for those other grants, there’s $500.00 community grants that people can get to do different things for the neighbourhood and one of them includes taking over boulevards, planting. I think one of the things that people learn through this whole, entire time was the importance of: A. neighbourhood, and also growing food for, for, for, neighbourhood and for self sufficiency [Note: food self sufficiency is one of the stated goals of the Cowichan Green Community]. So I feel that this is a really timely project given the time we are in and I would like to go to Councillor Capps who wanted to add something.”

Michelle Staples’ comments conclude at 1:04:15 of the video. The vote on Agenda Item 7.8 is taken between 1:05:02 and 1:05:23 of the video.

As shown in the video and in the Meeting Minutes, the vote was 4-3 in favour of the $10,000 Grant with Mayor Michelle Staples casting the deciding vote in favour of the $10,000 Grant to the Cowichan Green Community Society.

Council members voting in favour of the $10,000 Grant to the Cowichan Green Community Society were: Stacey Middlemiss, Jenny Capps, Carol Newington and Mayor Michelle Staples. Council members voting against the $10,000 Grant to the Cowichan Green Community Society were: Bob Brooke, Tom Duncan and Garry Bruce.

We believe that in speaking in favour of this $10,000 Grant to the Cowichan Green Community Society, and then voting in favour of it, Mayor Michelle Staples has put her herself in an Indirect Conflict of Interest as defined by the Community Charter.

The Indirect Conflict of Interest arises from the fact that the Executive Director of the Cowichan Green Community Society is Judy Stafford, who a close personal friend of Mayor Michelle Staples.

We believe there is also another Indirect Conflict of Interest arising from Mayor Michelle Staples’ actions in this matter.

The Cowichan Green Community is comprised of two separate non-profit societies: the Cowichan Green Community Society and the Cowichan Green Community Foundation.

We believe that the Cowichan Green Community maintains these two organizations to separate its property ownership from its operations, a common practice among non-profit societies and fraternal organizations.

Whatever practice is being followed by the Cowichan Green Community, the Cowichan Green Community Society and the Cowichan Green Community Foundation are definitely connected. They share the same logo and the same website, CowichanGreenCommunity.org.

Cowichan Green Community building, 360 Duncan Street in downtown Duncan. Formerly the Phoenix Hotel (photo: Duncan Taxpayers)
Cowichan Green Community building, 360 Duncan Street in downtown Duncan. Formerly the Phoenix Hotel (photo: Duncan Taxpayers)

Here is a link to the Cowichan Green Community Annual Report for 2019. It lists both the Cowichan Green Community Society (pages 3-8. Note that Judy Stafford is shown as the Executive Director) and the Cowichan Green Community Foundation (page 19)

Note that page 19 of the Cowichan Green Community Annual Report for 2019 shows that the President of the Cowichan Green Community Foundation is Chris Hall.

Chris Hall is also on the Board of Directors of Social Planning Cowichan, the organization of which Mayor Michelle Staples is the Executive Director. Chris Hall’s position on the Social Planning Cowichan Board of Directors means that he is, in effect, one of Michelle Staples employers at Social Planning Cowichan. Executive Directors typically retain their position in an organization at the pleasure of the organization’s Board of Directors.

This means that Mayor Michelle Staples also spoke in favour of, and voted in favour of, a $10,000 grant to the Cowichan Green Community Society, which is directly connected to the Cowichan Green Community Foundation, whose President is also one of Michelle Staples’ employers at Social Planning Cowichan.

We believe this falls well within the definition of Indirect Conflict of Interest under the Community Charter. 

The Indirect Conflict of Interest in this case arises from the fact that the President of the Cowichan Green Community Foundation is Chris Hall, who is also a Director of Social Planning Cowichan, which makes him, in effect, Michelle Staples employer at Social Planning Cowichan.

We believe that Mayor Michelle Staples should have recused herself from all discussion and voting on Agenda Item 7.8 at the City of Duncan Council Meeting of 15 June 2020. She did not, as you can clearly see in the video above.

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2 thoughts on “Potential Conflict Of Interest – Duncan Council Meeting 15 June 2020

  1. Michelle Staples has done this same thing on many occasions it seems her plan is to chair or be associated by membership with many organizations in the area which contain members that can benefit those issues she wishes to get passed
    Michelle has supported BC housing to put shoot up centers and shelters into North Cowichan and benefited from the new police station in the same manor causing north Cowichan ratepayers to pay Duncan ratepayers share. Michelle is not the kind of person to lead this council or any organization.

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