Nanaimo’s Sponsorship Program and Conflict of Interest

Nanaimo Councillors voted unanimously to start a sponsorship program at the last council meeting.  What is a sponsorship program? Who will benefit? Is there a possibility for conflict of interest?

Councillor McKay, who works in the sign business, put forward a motion which would allow him to be placed on the Sponsorship Subcomittee for Nanaimo.

What is a sponsorship program? The City of Nanaimo pays for advertisements in various forms to promote the City or announce new services or policies. On highways there are signs informing you which level of government contributed to a road improvement. At a sporting event, there are often signs and billboards bearing government logos.

Who will benefit? The advertising companies receiving public funds, will benefit.

The following is the motion that was voted on:

Nanaimo’s municipal sponsorship program is to develop a policy for the sponsorship process:

  1.  Approve the development of a sponsorship policy for the City of Nanaimo.
  2.  Support the creation of a 6 member sub-committee drawn from the Parks and Recreation and Culture Commission (PRCC).
  3. Direct staff to present a draft policy to the above named commissions for feedback and recommendations prior to bringing forward to Council.

Discussion on the motion:

Mckay: “I would like to make a friendly amendment under item two that an additional position be added.  A member of council.”

Ruttan: “…What is the intention of the committee? We have three members of council, currently sitting on the committee; Johnstone as chair [PRCC]; she is involved in this.”

Staff:  “Three members of the sub-committee could be members at large, not necessarily from council.”

Ruttan: “…McKay’s amendment is to include an additional position [a council member].”

Pattje: “What if it turns out to be that one of the two members who sit on the culture committee or any of the three that sit on parks and recreation are selected in the the six, would you still want to have another council member?”

McKay:  “Yes.”

Pattje: “For what reason?”

Mckay: “I would like to be involved with it, and I am not on any of those committees.”

Kipp: “It is called a six member sub-committee… would this be an adhoc committee? Is that the correct name?…”

Staff: “…it would be like an adhoc committee…”

Kipp: “So this is like a sub-committee that would be ongoing…”

Bestwick: “…section 3 states, ‘Direct staff to present a draft policy’… Is the policy that is going to be created to be done by staff or committee?…I am confused about the order of this.”

Staff: “The idea is that the adhoc committee would help draft the policy, and then it would go through the commissions and then to council…”

Bestwick: “So we are not directing staff to create a policy but getting the adhoc committee to come up with the sponsorship policy…”

Staff: “The idea is…to work the policy through…”

Greves: “I understand that Mckay said that he would like to be on this committee, so this is
what we are voting on? Not ‘a councillor’ but ‘Councillor Mckay’—that’s what we are voting on?”

Ruttan: “No, it is my understanding that it was to include a member of council on it…Mckay is interested in sitting on it but there may be others as well…”

Bestwick: “…we approved the friendly amendment without voting? …So now we just need to identify who that Councillor is that will sit on this committee?”

Staff: “…a motion can be made another time on who sits on the committee.”

Ruttan: “…the motion isn’t name specific…”

Brennan: “I am not entirely convinced that we need to add another position on this committee for the sole purpose of having a Councillor on it…A broader discussion with the community [is needed] to bring back recommendations to council…”

Mckay: “I understand that other members of the two committees would be eager to get involved in this project and I would as well. I am volunteering for the position. Other than doing this, I can’t think of any other way I could be involved with this. That’s why I proposed a [friendly amendment to the motion to add a councillor].”

Ruttan: “The challenge is that this is your motion and you had the opportunity to think about it and there are others who haven’t thought about this and may want to think about it…”

Next, Council approved the motion and McKay’s amendment:

Bestwick: “I would like to move that Councillor Mckay be appointed to the [Sponsorship] sub-committee.”

Ruttan: “I would suggest that we want to give everyone the chance at this…I think the process needs to be a little more open…”

Kipp:  “…in the local government act their are a number of Councillors attached to standing committees. Now this is being named a sub-committee and it doesn’t have a council attachment to it…”

Hewitt: “…My recommendation it to change the name to a ‘task force’ because its purpose is to address a specific task [policy of sponsorship]…”

Ruttan: “…no objection to the name of the committee…”

Kipp: “…it should be called an adhoc committee and…report back in a certain amount of time to council…[McKay] has made a number of presentations regarding sponsorship at various government conferences so he is well versed in it and he brought this forward so…”

Johnstone: “…McKay has a great passion for sponsorship and has served on panels and has made exceptional presentations and our community can be proud of, I will support that motion [that McKay be added to the Sponsorship Committee]…”

Pattje: “Question to staff, sponsorship involves advertising and a lot of it, I would imagine.
Councillor McKay is employed in that field [advertising]. Does that present any problems? As far as conflict [of interest] is concerned?”

Swabey: “That would be up to Councillor McKay, if he thinks that he has a conflict [of interest].”

Ruttan: “Okay, the motion is to vote on Councillor McKay being placed on the [Sponsorship] committee.”

All councillors were in attendance. The motion passed unanimously.

Why doesn’t the City of Nanaimo have a clear policy on conflict of interest for council members? They just spent approximately $100,000 on consultants to define what are councillor roles and responsibilities.

If it is left up to a councillor to decide if they have a conflict of interest, then Nanaimo taxpayers are in trouble.