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Resident alleges potential conflict over Powell River mayor's property

Pat Martin appears before committee of the whole to outline investigation
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SEEKS TRANSPARENCY: Pat Martin appeared before City of Powell River’s committee of the whole to outline an investigation she conducted into property owned by the mayor and a former city employee.

Mayor Dave Formosa has been accused of being in a potential conflict of interest over property holdings he shares with the City of Powell River’s former director of planning services.

At the September 20 committee of the whole meeting, Pat Martin appeared before the committee, saying she has identified several potential conflict issues that have occurred in recent years that don’t appear to have been addressed by city council.

“The most serious potential conflict of interest occurred in 2020 when Dave Formosa Holdings Ltd. and the director of planning services at the time, Thomas Knight, incorporated a numbered company, 1241280 BC Ltd.,” said Martin. “At the time of incorporation, and to date, the only directors and officers of this numbered company are David John Formosa and Thomas Kenneth Knight.”

Martin said the company is the current registered owner of a waterfront property on Marine Avenue directly across from the ferry dock. She said on December 2, 2020, the company submitted a rezoning application to the city to develop the property, with Formosa signing as owner.

“The former owners of this property sold it after spending over four years trying to obtain development approval from city hall,” said Martin. “I’m also aware that in 2021, council held an in-camera meeting to discuss the issue, after which the director of planning services retired. This issue can and should be discussed publicly to ensure local government transparency and accountability.”

Martin said the numbered company does not appear on the mayor’s 2021 and 2022 financial disclosure of assets and corporate assets.

“This omission appears to be a clear violation of the Financial Disclosure Act that states subsidiaries of corporations should be included in disclosures,” said Martin.

She said when Formosa and Knight shared an interest in the numbered company and were working on developing the property, council minutes indicate Knight also worked on Formosa’s Timberlane Estates subdivision rezoning application to accommodate secondary suites.

“While we can’t know whether Mr. Knight would have made the same recommendations favouring mayor Formosa’s interests if he hadn’t been in business with him, such a business relationship undermines public trust in civic government,” said Martin. “In summary, a very serious potential conflict of interest may have occurred.”

Rules are clear, says mayor

Formosa said the conflict of interest rules and regulations are clear and he has been dealing with them for the 14 years he’s been on city council.

“Anyone who has noticed my disclosure will notice it’s quite large and has all of my real estate lined up,” said Formosa. “I’m very shocked that this particular parcel of land does not appear. It may appear in a different name because when Mr. Knight asked if he could join me on that property, which I had owned for a number of years, it probably would have been in Dave Formosa Holdings ownership and covered there in previous disclosures.

“Possibly, when that new corporation was formed, maybe it got missed.”

Martin said the actual address of the property is on the disclosure, however, it was not listed under assets or corporate assets. She said the company is a subsidiary of Dave Formosa Holdings Ltd and from the outside looking in, there appears to be a conflict.

Martin said the city’s in-camera meetings are not as confidential as councillors might think and she is aware of more than one person who has talked about this in the community.

“That’s how I found out,” added Martin. “Someone told me after it went from person-to-person-to-person.”

Formosa said he has never hidden his ownership of that property with Knight.

Martin then asked what council does in matters of conflict of interest.

Personal decision

Corporate officer Chris Jackson said what he tells councillors is that declaring a conflict is a personal decision and it’s up to them to decide if they have a conflict.

“Even if a councillor believes another has a conflict, you can’t force them to declare it,” added Jackson. “If they do not declare it and could have a conflict, that would have to be handled through the courts. Council could ask that it come to the courts or 10 electors can sign the forms to bring it to court and then the court would decide if there is a true conflict of interest, and there are consequences to that.”

Martin said there is also censure, which is another remedy, and is a serious reprimand.

She asked what steps council took to investigate this potential conflict of interest.

Committee chair and councillor Jim Palm said this was an in-camera item, so he did not think council was at liberty to discuss it.

Martin said people who were in the in-camera meeting went out into the community and talked.

“I’m not going to disclose where I found the information,” added Martin.

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said council is in a difficult position because they are constrained by the rules of the province regarding in-camera proceedings. She asked if Martin is aware that the public can launch a censure if they get 10 residents together.

Martin said she was just learning these things.

She said she would be putting her presentation on Facebook.

“Everything that I’ve said is documented,” said Martin. “I have the whole history of the property. It’s very interesting. I don’t think council has done its due diligence in allowing this very potential conflict of interest.”