Mark Anderson has filed a petition with the court to remove Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples for conflicts of interest. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Petition filed to oust Duncan mayor over alleged conflicts of interest

Staples said petition has no merit

A request for a judicial review by the Supreme Court of B.C. in an effort to have Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples removed from office over numerous alleged conflicts of interest has been filed at the Duncan court house.

The petition for the review is spearheaded by Mark Anderson, an unsuccessful candidate for a council seat in Duncan during the last municipal election, and a number of other city citizens.

Staples denies the allegations.

The petition alleges there are reasonable grounds to believe that Staples is in a number of conflicts of interest over grant payments and directing grant money to organizations in which she is involved or has an interest.

RELATED STORY: STAPLES TO LEAD FRESH-FACED COUNCIL IN DUNCAN

“She has not declared any conflict of interest in these matters and we are asking for a judicial review of these issues under the Community Charter,” Anderson said.

The petition states that Staples, as well as being mayor of Duncan, also works as the executive director of Social Planning Cowichan and through that position, has received income by way of contracts from the Cowichan Housing Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association and Cowichan Green Community.

It states that as an elected official, Staples sits on the boards of leadership groups and participates on committees, while partnering with Social Planning Cowichan as well as the other listed agencies at the same time.

“Michelle Staples does not declare a conflict or recuse herself from any discussions where she has a direct financial interests in the matter,” the petition says.

“In fact, she leads many of the initiatives and conversations using her elected official status and authority to influence these decisions. We are requesting a judicial review and investigation into the recent grants and funding, obtained though the influence of [Staples] for organizations and agencies in which she has a direct pecuniary interest.”

RELATED STORY: CITY OF DUNCAN ESTABLISHES GRANT PROGRAM DURING COVID-19 CRISIS

Among the petitioners’ allegations is that they have reasonable grounds to believe that Staples knowingly and willingly used her elected position to gather local leaders, provincial ministers and various stake holders to petition the province to give Social Planning Cowichan and partner organizations contracts for approximately $14 million.

The petitioners said they believe the integrity of the City of Duncan decision making is in question and are petitioning the courts for a declaration of disqualification of Staples and any staff or elected officials found to be in direct or indirect conflict.

“The mayor’s involvement in the conflicts of interest are not a simple misjudgment, but a calculated effort and an ongoing pattern of lack of integrity,” the petition states.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Staples said she was just recently made aware that the petition had been filed so it’s news to her.

“I believe there is no merit to this petition and I have turned this matter over to legal counsel and we are in the process of applying to have this case dismissed,” she said.

“I look forward to providing a more detailed response when appropriate.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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