We’re a bit disappointed to see two Rocky View County councillors participate in a vote on an application where potential bias is being questioned.
The County’s code of conduct allows councillors to decide for themselves whether they feel capable of providing an unprejudiced opinion on a matter. But these two instances meet the criteria described in council’s own workshop materials regarding the issue of common law bias as creating a “reasonable apprehension” of impartiality.
One indicator is “outside knowledge or involvement in the matter.” Councillors should all receive the same information to come to a fair decision as a whole. Deputy Reeve Al Schule’s previous involvement with the Bearspaw Heights proposals indicates his knowledge of those applications may exceed that of his fellow councillors – even if some of the details of the proposal have changed since 2017.
“Relationships with persons involved in the matter” is another context presented in the document. An application presented by Coun. Samanntha Wright’s neighbour, affecting land adjacent to her property, certainly could suggest she may have a “direct interest in the outcome of the decision” – pecuniary or not.
Still, these councillors opted to participate in a vote on an item where a “reasonable apprehension" of bias is clearly present, even though choosing to recuse themselves from the discussion wouldn’t come with any negative consequences. In fact, the move might have reinforced public faith in their honesty and integrity.
Unfortunately, that’s not the decision they made.