To the Editor:
City of Thompson mayor and council: I have noted of late that there have been quite a few disagreements over conflict of interest issues. Perhaps the help of the definitions from Wikipedia will help.
“A conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interests, financial or otherwise, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation or decision-making of that individual or organization.
The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the occurrence of impropriety. Therefore, a conflict of interest can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs. A conflict of interest exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed (on the basis of past experience and objective evidence) to create a risk that a decision may be unduly influenced by other, secondary interests, and not on whether a particular individual is actually influenced by a secondary interest.
A widely used definition is: ‘A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.’ Primary interest refers to the principal goals of the profession or activity, such as the protection of clients, the health of patients, the integrity of research, and the duties of public office. Secondary interest includes personal benefit and is not limited to only financial gain but also such motives as the desire for professional advancement, or the wish to do favours for family and friends. These secondary interests are not treated as wrong in and of themselves, but become objectionable when they are believed to have greater weight than the primary interests. Conflict of interest rules in the public sphere mainly focus on financial relationships since they are relatively more objective, fungible, and quantifiable, and usually involve the political, legal, and medical fields.”
Also, the Manitoba Ombudsman has provided a checklist to help with this problem.
“Conflict of interest checklist: Use the following checklist to identify a possible conflict of interest. A ‘yes’ to any of the questions might indicate a possible conflict or lead to the perception of conflict:
• Am I, a relative of mine or a member of my family likely to be directly affected by this matter?
• Is my property or that of a relative or family member likely to be directly affected?
• Am I or a member of my family likely to gain or lose in any way that can be measured in financial terms?
• Do I or a member of my family own shares in a company or organization that is likely to be directly affected?
• Do I or a member of my family hold a position in a company or organization that is likely to be directly affected?
• Am I or a member of my family employed by a person, company or organization that is likely to be directly affected?
• Have I or a member of my family received any gifts in money or otherwise from a person, company or organization that is likely to be directly affected?
• Will someone I am close to (friends, relatives) be directly affected by a decision of council?
• Am I uncertain of my ability to act impartially and in the public interest?
• Would a fair and reasonable person perceive that I was influenced by a personal interest in performing my public duty.”
If this is of help, it might avert agreements being challenged at a later date.