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Councillor in potential conflict over auditor's mayoral bid

Lawyer Greg Levine, an expert in municipal law who is the integrity commissioner for three municipalities in Ontario, said in an email the situation in Sudbury has a few implications for someone in Dupuis' position.
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Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis is seen with a supporter at a July 24 event in support of his mayoral bid. City council will vote today whether to give Auditor General Brian Bigger an unpaid leave of absence so he can run for mayor, putting Dupuis in a potential conflict. File photo.
Lawyer Greg Levine, an expert in municipal law who is the integrity commissioner for three municipalities in Ontario, said in an email the situation in Sudbury has a few implications for someone in Dupuis' position.

“The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act deals with pecuniary (financial) interests and members of council are not supposed to vote on or participate in discussions of matters in which they have a pecuniary interest,” Levine said.

Since becoming mayor is a paying job, and allowing Bigger to run would make winning harder, he said it could be interpreted as a pecuniary interest.

The definition of conflict of interest is broader in common law, Levine said, and includes someone who has a private interest in a public matter.

“So perhaps advancement by winning election or doing in a rival could be seen as conflicts in this context.”

Also, when an employee applies for a leave, Levine said they have a reasonable expectation that the person making the decision has no bias toward them.

“Would it be reasonable to believe that a rival candidate might be biased? Again, likely. So here we have a potential argument about reasonable apprehension of bias,” Levine said.

When asked whether Dupuis would have a conflict in this case, lawyer Virginia MacLean, an Oakville-based local government specialist, said simply: “Yes.”

If Bigger runs for the top job at Tom Davies Square, he would join a growing roster of candidates vying to replace Mayor Marianne Matichuk, who announced in June she wasn't running again. Seven people have signed up, including Dupuis, former Mayor John Rodriguez and former taxpayers association president Dan Melanson.

Since the decision is a personnel matter, councillors will meet behind closed doors today at 4:15 to decide on Bigger's request.

Darren MacDonald

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