Letters: Perceptions abound

Sooke council conflict of interest issue perceived

y I support a laundromat but do not support a car wash at the Village Foods location for many reasons that others have already outlined. My larger concerns are the processes council is following to make this decision.

On Monday, Sept. 10 a Public Hearing was held regarding modification of zoning and releasing of covenants to allow the car wash. Mayor Milne chaired the hearing. I have a problem with Mr. Milne being present because he is in a potential conflict of interest.  According to the public record of entities that contributed to Mr. Milne’s election campaign, he received $2,000 from the Logan Group and an additional $2,000 from JCB Holdings.  Essentially he received one-third of his total campaign contributions from entities that will receive a clear benefit if the car wash zoning modification is approved. I do not know if Mr. Milne legally has to step out, but the optics are terrible. The perception of bias is strong.

In my opinion, staff did an excellent job preparing the package for this hearing. Yet many council members appeared confused by what the hearing covered, even though it was clearly laid out in the package. A resident then questioned the legality of the process, and council voted to go back to staff and get a legal opinion.  Shouldn’t we trust that our district staff actually knew what they were doing when they recommended this zoning modification? For the first five months of 2012, the district has already spent $118,446.53 on legal fees. Assuming that the district did not spend a penny more on legal fees for the rest of 2012, we are already $28,446.53 over budget for the year. This is alarming. We simply cannot afford to keep requesting a legal opinion every time someone questions staff or council.

Council needs to start actually making decisions about key issues rather than referring back to staff or getting a legal opinion every time someone questions them. Mayor Milne and some councillors also need to use better judgement in determining whether they could be potentially in a conflict of interest.

I almost forgot something. Council did make a key decision  I am sure the Sooke taxpayers are over the moon about. We can now watch all of this from the comfort of our homes on our computers. With the looming threat of an NHL lockout, I’m glad I will be able to watch council meetings instead.

Tom Myrick

Sooke