Squamish Coun. Susan Chapelle said she will recuse herself from voting on any matters concerning Woodfibre LNG after the business offered a grant to her not-for-profit.
Aligned Collective, a co-working and community education space co-founded by Chapelle and Zanny Venner in October, received a $5,000 grant from Woodfibre in December as part of the business’s annual Community Sponsorship Program.
“After some thought, If the community considers me in conflict, I would remove myself from the vote,” said Chapelle in an emailed statement in The Chief.
“The priority is for me to maintain Aligned Collective’s community focus on economic development and local job growth. There are no decisions to be made that have not been made except on taxation, and in this regard I am trusting of my fellow councillors to obtain the best deal for the community.”
Chapelle said the organization applied for dozens of grants, and it was Venner, not her, who wrote the applications. She said the $5,000 was small in comparison to the $50,000 awarded by Squamish Savings earlier in the year.
Conflict of interest rules for elected councillors are legislated in the provincial Community Charter, which prohibits councillors from influencing decisions in which they have “a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the matter.”
The Charter does not give specific direction for councillors who are appointed to not-for-profit boards.
While Chappelle said she is not paid by Aligned Collective and does not benefit personally from the grant.
In an interview, Mayor Patricia Heintzman agreed with the decision.
“That recusal includes public comments, a councillor can’t be seen as influencing a decision where they has a potential conflict of interest. That’s in provincial legislation,” said Heintzman.
“You know I think the Aligned Collective project is a really good project, but when you receive monies for a project you are doing and you are an elected official, there are rules that you play by,” she said.
The WLNG grants are given to local charities and community groups semi-annually, “with a specific focus on organizations that are working in areas of education, youth sport, and environmental initiatives” according to the Woodfibre website.
Seven other groups received funding from the Winter 2017 Sponsorship Program.
A grant of $2,500 was given to the Britannia Mine Museum for their school program and $2,500 was given to Howe Sound Secondary students for their robotics program.
Both the Squamish Skating Club and the Team Squamish Mountain bike team also received a $2,500 grant. A local Cadets squadron received $2,000 for the purchase of new tents. The Squamish Minor Hockey Association received $2,500.
The Howe Sound Marine Rescue Society received the second-largest contribution, with $4000 towards purchasing a special data-collecting buoy used to monitor water conditions.