While Sooke PocketNews has no opinion on the qualities, merits and attributes of Sooke’s new CAO, it has come to our attention that there may have been a conflict of interest in the hiring process for this particular job posting.
Here are the two key facts:
- From Bonnie Sprinkling, SPN learned “the Hiring Committee was established by Council as a standing committee in July 2015 and the members are Councillor Kevin Pearson, Councillor Kerrie Reay (Chair) and Councillor Rick Kasper.”
- According to the Board of Directors’ for the Conservative party’s Esquimalt Saanich Sooke EDA website, Reay and Teresa Sullivan had a prior and existing relationship during the time of the hiring, in that both were executives in the Board of Directors:
- Reay (Chair of the hiring committee) was the President of the ESS Conservative Party’s Board
- Sullivan (formerly Teresa Harvey) was the ESS Conservative Party’s Election Readiness executive board member; another local print paper identified Sullivan as the campaign manager for Conservative Shari Lukens’ bid for the 2015 federal election
When SPN sought clarity on the possible conflict of interest from the District of Sooke, the acting major Kevin Pearson issued the following verbatim response:
“As acting Mayor at the time of Ms. Sullivan’s hiring; I offer the following comments (1) standard human resource hiring practices were followed and (2) in keeping with these standard human resource practices all information associated with District hiring competitions are considered confidential. I will not offer any further comments on this matter.”
Given the finality of the last sentence, SPN did not pursue the line of questioning: whose “standard human resources hiring practices” was he referring to?
To that end, we looked at the Government of BC’s “Standards of Conduct,” (Human Resources Policy 9) since provincial legislation guides municipal practices. Here’s an excerpt of what we found, with the relevant issues italicized (added):
Conflicts of Interest
A conflict of interest occurs when an employee’s private affairs or financial interests are in conflict, or could result in a perception of conflict, with the employee’s duties or responsibilities in such a way that:
- the employee’s ability to act in the public interest could be impaired; or
- the employee’s actions or conduct could undermine or compromise:
- the public’s confidence in the employee’s ability to discharge work responsibilities; or
- the trust that the public places in the BC Public Service.
While the government recognizes the right of BC Public Service employees to be involved in activities as citizens of the community, conflict must not exist between employees’ private interests and the discharge of their BC Public Service duties. Upon appointment to the BC Public Service, employees must arrange their private affairs in a manner that will prevent conflicts of interest, or the perception of conflicts of interest, from arising. Employees who find themselves in an actual, perceived, or potential conflict of interest must disclose the matter to their supervisor, manager, or ethics advisor. Examples of conflicts of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:
- An employee uses government property or equipment or the employee’s position, office, or government affiliation to pursue personal interests or the interests of another organization;
- An employee is in a situation where the employee is under obligation to a person who might benefit from or seek to gain special consideration or favour;
- An employee, in the performance of official duties, gives preferential treatment to an individual, corporation, or organization, including a non-profit organization, in which the employee, or a relative or friend of the employee, has an interest, financial or otherwise;
- An employee benefits from, or is reasonably perceived by the public to have benefited from, the use of information acquired solely by reason of the employee’s employment;
- An employee benefits from, or is reasonably perceived by the public to have benefited from, a government transaction over which the employee can influence decisions (for example, investments, sales, purchases, borrowing, grants, contracts, regulatory or discretionary approvals, appointments)
Given that Councillor Reay had a previous political affiliation with Teresa Sullivan in an executive capacity, and given that Reay was the Chair of the selection committee that hired Sullivan, SPN now turns the conversation over to the public — since public perception is a fundamental determinant of a conflict of interest.
Resident’s of Sooke, fellow taxpayers, what do you think? Might there have been special consideration or favour, or perception of it? Do you have confidence that the hiring process was uninfluenced by a prior relationship? Do you trust the process? Or, should we just close the book on this move on with what is?
- Standards of Conduct, printable Version (conflict is addressed on page 5)
- Terms of Reference for the DoS Hiring Committee
- Board of Directors’ for the Conservative party’s Esquimalt Saanich Sooke EDA
- Teresa Sullivan is the new CAO for Sooke (refer also to the comments for possible calls of a conflict of interest)