Reeve of RM Sherwood tossed from office over land deal conflicts
Report calls Kevin Eberle's conduct 'highly unethical' in connection with Wascana Village deal
Following release of a damning report about a land deal and conflict of interest in the Rural Municipality of Sherwood, the Saskatchewan government has removed Reeve Kevin Eberle.
Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter said he was shocked and disgusted by Eberle's conduct in the Wascana Village affair, calling it an egregious conflict of interest.
Justice Ministry officials have now turned the file over to the RCMP for a criminal investigation.
RM pursued $2B development
The scathing report by retired Queen's Bench justice Ron Barclay released Thursday found serious conflicts of interest and violations of public trust in connection with the Wascana Village proposal.
Serious damage has been done to the office of reeve as well as to the integrity and credibility of the RM as a whole.- Ron Barclay's report
That's the proposed community of 14,000 people that the RM wanted to build to the southeast of Regina. Barclay said it was potentially a $2 billion development.
Eberle and his family own much of the land the development was to be built on.
Reeve called 'highly unethical'
Eberle claimed he recused himself from any RM decisions involving Wascana Village, but Barclay said his behaviour was "highly unethical" promoting the project behind the scenes.
"Reeve Eberle's actions fall far below any standard by which I was asked to assess his conduct," Barclay wrote in the 158-page report. "Unfortunately, the opportunity to earn significant profits has interfered with his moral compass."
Among the findings in the report:
- Eberle stood to gain roughly $58 million on land sales and profits from the Wascana Village project.
- Eberle took a "not appropriate" interest in trying to find a water supply for the RM, something crucial for Wascana Village to succeed.
- When a press conference to announce Wascana Village was held in May 2013, Eberle was already receiving profits from the development company.
- He was involved in altering the minutes of a meeting concerning Wascana Village to make it appear he wasn't involved.
- He instructed an RM employee to destroy documents implicating him in Wascana Village.
"In sum, the conduct of Reeve Eberle, as outlined above, coupled with his lack of recognition of the effect of his conduct, and lack of remorse, has left me to conclude that serious damage has been done to the office of reeve as well as to the integrity and credibility of the RM as a whole," Barclay said in the report.
I am left to conclude that the Council blindly (no cost-benefit analysis, no mandate, no due diligence) pursued the Wascana Village Development for the simple sake of development.- Barclay report
Eberle has been replaced by an interim reeve appointed by the province.
Questions asked about RM council
While Eberle took the brunt of the criticism, Barclay also had some choice words for the Sherwood council.
"I am left to conclude that the Council blindly (no cost-benefit analysis, no mandate, no due diligence) pursued the Wascana Village Development for the simple sake of development," he wrote.
Regina not pleased with Wascana Village proposal
For months, the Wascana Village project was a source of friction between the RM of Sherwood and the City of Regina.
The city has its own plans for expanding beyond its borders and didn't look favourably on a 14,000-resident community being developed on its doorstep. The city and RM later mended their fences somewhat, with an agreement on how to move forward with planning, although the Wascana Village proposal remained a sticking point.
Deputy Reeve Tim Probe said Thursday that he disagreed with portions of the report.
"I think he [Eberle] did things properly," Probe said. "Were there some errors in judgments? Probably, but I think they were on the minor side."
Probe said the RM is putting in place bylaws to guide officials when they have an interest in a matter as well as a bylaw on ethics.