City councillor says she has no conflict of interest in neighbourhood development

Charlottetown city councillor Melissa Hilton says she followed the rules when it came to her conduct around a rezoning application for a development at 4 Valdane Ave. in her Ward.

Coun. Melissa Hilton was questioned over process at Monday night's meeting

Coun. Melissa Hilton feels she followed all the protocols. (CBC)

A Charlottetown city councillor, Melissa Hilton says she followed the rules when it came to her conduct around a rezoning application for a development at 4 Valdane Ave. in her ward. 

"It's not uncommon, and everybody has done it and I have done it in the past as well and I've never has an issue before," she said. 

Coun. Jason Coady says he wouldn't participate if there was any relation in an application. (CBC)
What she did was go to a few doors with the developer to introduce them to residents in the surrounding area. The developer is also a cousin of Hilton's husband. That's where Coun. Jason Coady says the problem lies. He stood up at the council meeting  Monday night and stated he would not support the application because of the process that was followed. 

"Personally I wouldn't have went door to door with the applicant if there is a relationship there, like to me it really wouldn't have been worth it," Coady said 

"There's a process, there's policies in place just let the process look after the details of it and see where the application goes. "

City has a policy

The city's policy around conflict of interest reads:

"Members must guard against allowing their independent judgment to be influenced by self-interest or by the interest of persons closely related to them or associated in business with them. Even the appearance of impropriety must be avoided."

It goes on to say that if the councillor believes there could be a conflict, they should stop all activity and report it to the council and the CAO. 

Hilton said she doesn't believe she was in conflict and said she checked with a city official to be sure. 

"That is far-fetched for a cousin of a spouse to put you in a conflict situation," she said

"I asked my city solicitor if I am in conflict and he said absolutely not, you are not in conflict."

Introductions only

Hilton said she only went to a couple of doors and didn't engage in the discussion, just introduced the developer.

However she said at the meeting on Monday, just to be extra cautious she decided to excuse herself from the vote.  

But Coady says, there needs to be a more clear line. 

"Either you're in conflict or you're not in conflict, it can't be both ways, you can't pick or choose when you're going to be in a conflict." 

Hilton said she was just doing what she thought a councillor should, and that she's also accompanied other developers door to door who had projects in her community.

"This is my job, I'm a liaison between the applicant for anything and the residents, so you know the residents actually appreciated my presence with the applicant."

Coady said he is not going to take any further action, and Hilton said she would act in the same manner again.

About the Author

Natalia Goodwin

Video Journalist

Natalia is a video journalist in P.E.I. She has also worked for CBC N.L.