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City Council says no to “Independent Legal Advice on Conflict of Interest” policy

Prince George City Council will not be establishing a “Council Member Fund for Independent Legal Advice on Conflict of Interest.”

The issue was brought to Prince George City Council at Monday’s meeting.

This stemmed from a Council motion from January 20th, 2023:

That Council directs Administration to return a report to Council with options regarding the provision of funds to allow members of Council to access independent legal advice as it relates to conflicts of interest. 

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At Monday’s meeting, City Staff brought forward research that showed Vancouver was the only other municipality in BC to provide independent legal advice funding to Council members, with each Councillor receiving a $5,000 budget.

City staff suggested the same for the Prince George City Council, for a total of $45,000.

Council members would only be allowed to claim expenditures if:

  • A council member becomes aware of an issue after an agenda has been published, and wishes to receive advice on whether they are in conflict; or
  • When a council member has declared a conflict of interest in a council meeting and wishes to seek legal advice regarding their own potential conflict.

“That’s $45,000, and $45,000 could be spent on improving our city in a lot of different ways,” said Councillor Garth Frizzell.

“Yes, it’s nice to defend ourselves individually, but with $45,000, imagine the different programs we could support a much broader group of people in our city.”

It was also noted discussions between individuals and their legal council is subject to ‘solicitor-client’ privilege, meaning transparency could be difficult.

“That’s the second reason I’m not comfortable with it, the third one is the amount,” Frizzell continued.

“We’re looking at an amount that’ equal to what the Councillors get in the City of Vancouver, where it’s a full time job.”

Council received the report for information, but chose not to move forward with creating the fund.

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