Pitt Meadows staffer was ‘unaware’ of charter rules

Director of corporate services Laurie Darcus said she was unaware of the section in the B.C. Community Charter that requires council members to disclose any contracts they enter into with the city “as soon as reasonably practicable at a council meeting that is open to the public.”

Mayor Don MacLean.

Mayor Don MacLean.

A city staffer is taking the blame for failing to inform Pitt Meadows’ mayor he had to publicly reveal that his business had won a contract to insure the city’s vehicle fleet.

Director of corporate services Laurie Darcus said she was unaware of the section in the B.C. Community Charter that requires council members to disclose any contracts they enter into with the city “as soon as reasonably practicable at a council meeting that is open to the public.”

Section 168 also requires any contracts with council members to be listed in a report, that includes a general description of their nature, at least once a year.

“In this particular case, it was my error,” said Darcus.

“It is completely my fault. I should have reported that and unfortunately I didn’t.”

Mayor Don MacLean’s business – Sharpe’s Agency Ltd. – won the latest contract to insure 32 municipal vehicles, including pickup trucks, backhoes, bobcats and fire engines, in 2009. Since the contract totalled more than $25,000, this year is the first time the mayor’s business had to be identified in a city financial statement – to the surprise of several councillors, who claim they were unaware of the agreement.

The current contract with Sharpe’s Insurance, for $26,730, expires in 2012.

In 2009, the city decided to formalize the way it obtains insurance by inviting proposals, instead of sticking by a previous agreement, which alternated between Sharpe’s and Johnston Meier Insurance.

Three agencies responded to the request for proposals, including Sharpe’s, Johnston Meier and Meier & Company Insurance.

A staff committee picked the best bidder according to set criteria that included experience, the availability of on-site service, a willingness to provide short-term credit and a familiarity with the city’s vehicle fleet.

Darcus said the city will be taking no further action at present since the contract was discussed at a public committee meeting last week.

MacLean, too, was unaware of the charter disclosure rule, but believes he did not violate it.

“Corporate services would have advised me of it, if that had been the case,” he said.

“I understand the issue of transparency, but I would suspect all of council knows I [insure] the fleet. I talk about it at council during budget time. I know I have mentioned it. I have no problem with it being disclosed. This is not a big issue.”

A person who contravenes the charter is disqualified from holding an office until the next civic election, unless the contravention was done inadvertently or because of an error in judgement made in good faith.

MacLean, who has been mayor for the past 12 years, will not be seeking re-election in November.

He was elected to council in 1990.