News Views: Taking the fall

The woman who turns off all the lights at city hall to save energy, the one who started its worm compost, the former Pitt Meadows citizen of the year, is taking the blame for failing to inform Mayor Don MacLean that he had to publicly reveal his agency won the contract to insure the municipal vehicle fleet.

Laurie Darcus, the director of corporate services for the City of Pitt Meadows, a long-time municipal employee and a member of the staff committee that awarded the contract, 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.

Don MacLean, owner of Sharpe’s Insurance, won the municipal contract in 2009.

But councillors only learned that his agency won the exclusive contract, which before had been shared with two others, last week, when it was listed in a report because it exceeded $25,000 for the year.

Council doesn’t vote on the contract, the criteria for which includes experience and familiarity with the city’s vehicles.

Who could know the municipal fleet better than an insurance agent who is also the mayor?

Clearly staff thought no one.

As mayor, MacLean is not forbidden from bidding on municipal contracts. But the perception of doing so is poor. As some counterparts on council pointed out, the mayor is signing his own cheques.

Now, because of the amount of the contract, he is required to disclose it publicly, as soon as possible.

How could he not know that?

This is his business. This is his contract, even if he wasn’t involved in preparing the proposal for his agency. He is the mayor, the one bound by charter rules, and oath of office. Shouldn’t he know that?

After 21 years as a municipal politician, yes.

Don’t plead ignorance now.

He knows contravening the charter could disqualify him from holding office until the next municipal election, or at least he’s been told.

So Ms. Darcus, who cuts her hair once a year and donates to locks to wigs for cancer victims, takes the fall.

MacLean has said he’s not running for mayor again in November. He can bid on municipal contracts after that.  For now, he should tear up the contract and give the money back. That, or just resign.

– The News