New Brunswick

Councillor seeks criminal record checks for colleagues, better financial disclosure

A Moncton councillors says his colleagues should be subject to greater election financing disclosure and undergo criminal record checks, though says he doesn't believe there's been any wrongdoing by current councillors.

Bryan Butler says more disclosure required for councillors making multi-million dollar decisions

Bryan Butler, a Moncton city councillor, says he can't support a new code of conduct for council without stronger provisions for disclosing potential conflicts of interest and criminal record checks. (Shane Magee/CBC )

A Moncton councillor says his colleagues and the public ought to know more about the backgrounds of their municipal representatives making multi-million dollar decisions as the city considers a new code of conduct for council. 

Coun. Bryan Butler called for councillors to undergo criminal record checks and better campaign contribution disclosure. A new version of a council code of conduct was introduced Monday. Butler was one of three who voted against it. 

The code replaces a version about three years old and is required by provincial law. It includes provisions related to conduct toward fellow councillors and city staff, in public and disclosure of confidential information. 

Butler said the conflict of interest provisions should be extended to require more disclosure of campaign donations. 

"How do I sit in a room, and we're making a deal on something in the downtown area, and — nobody has, cross my heart — somebody has given me $5,000?," Butler said. "I can come and sit down and make all the decisions I want and no one knows that."

Butler said it's not something he's raising because he has concerns about current councillors. And he told reporters he did not receive any donations for his 2016 campaign.

The provincial government introduced changes to the Municipal Elections Act to set campaign contribution limits and require financial reporting earlier this year, but those changes take effect in 2020 and don't apply to ongoing byelections.

Nick Robichaud, Moncton's general manager of legal and legislative services, said the code of conduct says councillors shouldn't accept or receive any gifts or benefits that could be seen as swaying their decisions. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Nick Robichaud, Moncton's general manager of legal and legislative services, said the code of conduct says councillors shouldn't accept or receive any gifts or benefits that could be seen as swaying their decisions. But that would only apply once in office. 

"To a certain extent, I guess we'd be relying on all of you as elected officials representing the city to the best of your interest to act with a certain ethical standard," Robichaud said. 

Couns. Shawn Crossman and Paul Pellerin also voted against the proposed code of conduct. 

Crossman said he was concerned that council would be enforcing its own code of conduct if there is a complaint. 

Coun. Shawn Crossman, left, also opposed the code of conduct because it would see council making decisions about punishing fellow council members. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Robichaud said the bylaw suggests the city can hire a third-party investigator to examine problems. Decisions would be up to a majority vote of council, with elements of the results of an investigation likely kept private.

Robichaud said the existing code of conduct was used once, but wouldn't elaborate on the details. 

"It was something I really can't discuss," Robichaud told reporters. "It was confidential. A behaviour issue. So I can't discuss it publicly."

Butler, a former RCMP member, also said councillors should be screened for criminal records once elected.

​"I find it amazing we sit in there making multi-million dollar decisions and no one has had a criminal record check," Butler said, adding such checks are required for certain volunteer work and some jobs. 

Check not required for election

Robichaud said provincial law doesn't require a criminal record check when running for municipal office. He said checks once in office would also likely require a change in provincial law. 

Butler used several hypothetical examples in calling for the stronger provisions: Someone convicted of fraud making budget decisions, someone convicted of sex crimes dealing with female staff or someone talking about Mothers Against Drunk Driving that's driven drunk.

"I think people have a right to know, if you vote for someone, who is he?" Butler said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC. He can be reached at shane.magee@cbc.ca.

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