Councillor Maria McFaddin (center) took her oath of office at Monday’s council meeting. (Photo: Betsy Kline)

Castlegar councillors question mayor’s committee appointment over conflict of interest concerns

Councillors concerned over Mayor Bruno Tassone’s appointment of Cherryl MacLeod to the grievance committee

Castlegar councillors are already raising concerns over one of Bruno Tassone’s first decisions as mayor.

Board and committee apointments were the main thing on the agenda at the inaugral meeting Monday. It was one of the latter appointments that had three councillors voicing dissent.

Approximately 75 residents crowded into the Castlegar Community Forum to see the newly elected officials take their oaths of office before RCMP Sgt. Darren Oelke, while an honour guard from the Castlegar Fire Department stood watch.

Tassone will sit on the boards of the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), the Castlegar and District Recreation Commission, and the West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital District.

Councillor Dan Rye will be the alternate director to the RDCK. Rye and first-term councillor Bergen Price will also be appointed to the Castlegar and District Recreation Commission for a one-year term.

The above appointments were all carried by council. However, standing committee appointments, which are decided by the mayor alone, did not all go so smoothly.

Several councillors voiced concerns over Tassone’s appointment of first-term councillor Cherryl MacLeod to the grievance committee.

MacLeod is a member of CUPE, the same union as city staff, but she is part of a different local.

“Just from a point of transparency and impartiality, putting… Cherryl MacLeod on the committee puts her in a unique position,” said Councillor Florio Vassilakakis. “To be perhaps in an uncomfortable condition where she will have to vote on, or decided on a grievance that a fellow union member might be grieving.”

Vassilakakis said he was not questioning MacLeod’s integrity, but rather was concerned about the potential for a perceived conflict of interest.

Tassone responded by stating that he did not see a problem as there are two different locals in play. He also voiced his confidence in MacLeod’s ability to step down or recuse herself if she felt there was a conflict.

Councillor Dan Rye said he shared the same concerns as Vassilakakis.

“One of the first things you learn when you go to ‘newly elected school’ is that if there is a perceived case of conflict of interest, you should back away,” said Rye. “I would take it as a perceived conflict of interest.”

Macleod said she is excited to be on the committee and thinks it will be good to have someone with union experience at the table.

Vassilakakis argued that the mayor is already on the committee and he has spent more than 30 years in the CUPE union, so someone is already there that understands union workings.

Councillor Sue Heaton-Shertibitoff agreed with the concerns about MacLeod’s appointment.

No comments were made about the remaining committee assignments.

MacLeod will chair the community wellness and social services committee with Vassilakakis serving as deputy chair.

Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff will chair the culture and civic pride committee and Rye will serve as deputy chair.

Vassilakakis will chair the finance and corporate services committee and first-term councillor Maria McFaddin will serve as deputy chair.

Price will chair the green and technology committee and Heaton-Sherstobitoff will serve as deputy chair.

McFaddin will chair the planning and development committee and Price will serve as deputy chair.

Tassone will chair the public safety committee with Cherryl Macleod as deputy chair.

Councillor Rye will chair transportation and civic works and Tassone will act as deputy chair.

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