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Councillor launches appeal for legal consultation policy in final Oak Bay meeting

Tara Ney is not seeking re-election Oct. 15
Coun. Tara Ney raking leaves behind Oak Bay municipal hall during her earliest pitch to ban gas-powered gardening tools. Ney, who is not seeking re-election on Oct. 15, put in motion a potential new policy to help council members seeking legal advice in the face of potential or percieved conflict of interest. (Black Press Media file photo)

In her final meeting on Oak Bay council, Tara Ney, who is not seeking re-election, pitched a policy change to help her peers deal with legal advice on potential conflict of interest.

Ney’s motion asked staff to present policy options for conflict of interest costs incurred by members of council during the discharge of their duties.

With resounding support over investigating official guidance for future council members, in the absence of such policy, they opted not to repay funds Ney says she spent on legal advice during her tenure.

Ney noted that the Community Charter establishes provisions around conflict of interest for members of council. However, she noted, some cases are not clear cut and can leave a member seeking specific legal advice.

She hopes Oak Bay will follow the “growing trend” to establish policy and provide funding in the financial plan for members of council to access. Without it, she said, council members pay the cost of the legal advice themselves.

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“It helps guide councillors about when to consult, how to consult and also how to negotiate with a lawyer.”

In a notice of motion, she noted recently seeking legal advice herself to determine if she was in conflict over a land use consideration before council that was near a property she owns.

That advice rang up a bill of $3,681.89.

Council unanimously support investigating a policy, then Ney recused herself from the meeting for the second part of the motion – seeking repayment of those legal costs.

Citing absence of a policy for repayment, information surrounding the costs or requirement of a legal opinion and its retroactive nature, council opted against reimbursement.

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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