Sackville’s mayor denies any conflict of interest over AIL pipe factory

Mayor Mesheau presiding at April 11 meeting when town council gave final approval to zoning change

Sackville Mayor Shawn Mesheau has denied that he violated conflict of interest rules when he chaired council meetings that discussed and voted on changes to the town’s zoning bylaw clearing the way for a plastic pipe factory at 318 Walker Road.

The mayor’s brother, Peter Mesheau, is vice-president of marketing and communications at Atlantic Industries Limited (AIL), which is planning to build and operate the factory.

“I am not in a conflict of interest,” the mayor said during the public question period at Tuesday’s town council meeting.

“It is up to each individual councillor to declare a conflict of interest,” he added. “I am not in a conflict of interest.”

After an e-mail request for more information, the mayor responded today that council was dealing with a zoning change that was not specific to any one business.

“Council considered a text amendment to the zoning by-law, which applied to all industrial zoned properties in the town and not an individual property or variety of properties owned by any particular company,” Mesheau wrote.

“This is why I provided the response I did at the meeting Tuesday evening, where I stated that I am not in a conflict of interest.”

Background

At its meeting on February 14 with Mayor Mesheau presiding, council discussed an application from Andrew Fraser and Mike Wilson seeking a zoning change that would allow companies to build and operate in the 177-acre industrial park in the Walker Road area without having to connect to town water and sewer services.

Although company names weren’t given in the town planner’s staff report, Andrew Fraser owns Can-Tech Construction and Mike Wilson is CEO of the AIL Group of Companies, which includes Atlantic Industries Limited.

At that February meeting, council decided to proceed with the zoning change and set March 14 as the date for a public hearing.

Mesheau also chaired the March 14 meeting. No one showed up for the public hearing which had been advertised on the town’s website as a hearing on a zoning text amendment with no mention of the plastic pipe factory and storage facility that AIL was planning to build. Council voted to give first reading (preliminary approval) to the zoning change.

On April 11, with the mayor presiding, council voted to give second and third readings finally clearing the way for site preparations for an AIL pipe factory at 318 Walker Road.

What the law says

Sackville Town Council’s Code of Conduct states that members of council “are committed to making decisions impartially and in the best interests of the Town and recognize the importance of fully observing the requirements of the Local Governance Act, with regard to the disclosure and avoidance of conflicts of interest.”

New Brunswick’s Local Governance Act says a member of council has a conflict of interest if a “family associate” would benefit financially from a matter dealt with by council.

It defines a “family associate” as “a council member’s spouse or common-law partner, child, parent or sibling.

The law requires members with such a conflict to disclose it and “immediately withdraw from the meeting room while the matter is under consideration or put to a vote.”

Expert opinion

Professor Geoff Martin, who specializes in municipal politics and who served as a Sackville town councillor from 1998 to 2004, reviewed the summary sent to him by Warktimes and responded with the following statement:

On the face of it I believe that Mayor Mesheau should have declared a conflict of interest under the municipal and provincial rules, in dealings between the Town of Sackville and Atlantic Industries Limited.

Law Professor Nicole O’Byrne, who teaches at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, also received my summary as well as an audio recording of the mayor saying he was not in a conflict of interest:

I really don’t know enough about whether there is a real or perceived conflict of interest here. However, I will say that relying on self-declarations can be problematic for obvious reasons. There should be a way to contest a self-declaration of conflict of interest by using the Code of Conduct process. If there is evidence of a real or perceived conflict of interest then someone should be able to raise it as a breach of the Code of Conduct. That should trigger a 3rd party investigation.

Warktimes has filed a complaint under the Code of Conduct, to read it, click here.

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13 Responses to Sackville’s mayor denies any conflict of interest over AIL pipe factory

  1. marilyn lerch says:

    so if the council members did not know that one of the two men asking for a bylaw change was with AIL companies, of which the one in dorchester has Peter as an officer, then council could not smell a conflict of interest? That is my question. Was the one man identified as AIL person?

  2. Virgil Hammock says:

    I’m surprised that the mayor did not declare a conflict of interest. In the end it would not have changed anything. However, I agree with Geoff. As an ex-member of council, 1999-2012, I would have stepped aside. It’s what is perceived that is important.

  3. Wayne Feindel- Puppet of the People says:

    Did Mayor Mesheau have a conflict of interest? Short answer is no; but council and the Mayor are not beginners and in today’s world the perception of politicians and politics is pretty unsavory to say the least. In a small town like Dorchester everyone would be in a conflict of interest at one time or another if having a friend or family employed by an institution or business looking for approval for a project was deemed a conflict of interest. It is a catch 22 situation.

    If I’m chair and want to an to attend a banquet in which we are all going to partake, then who makes the motion that is not in conflict.?
    So the Mayor, except when presiding at a regular constituted meeting, is only an equal amongst equals. So silence on any issue by any councilor is seen as consent.

    Council seems to have never raised the question of a conflict of interest. So the mayor and council could be considered in violation of a custom or code. ((Breaking custom in Canada used to be more serious then breaking an American style conduct rule) You know how that has worked for them.

    Lately, there has been so much conflict perceived or real at councils that raises in my mind the question of the staffs role, especially the CAO and clerk. I received professional training in leadership communication and learned the staff has a responsibility in this world of ligation to help councilors and the mayor avoid these very common situations. The mayor especially has to be scrupulous when uttering any words that are not councils, for the mayors voice is councils. When presiding at a regular constituted meeting I would warn members of a possibility of breaking a custom or rule at their own peril, and correct a councilor though a point of order or privately the mayor.

    Ultimately , Minister Allain’s poor example demonstrated by the way in introducing reform in such away that his office encourages councils not to listen to residents or councils. Newspapers are blabbing away about what the mayors think about reform. I want them to hear what their community thinks. Never asked them probably. The Minster pays little attention or none to the local Councils; so now how does having more rural representation mean greater input? It means diddly-squat.

    Oh my people, the ‘joys of incompetence’. Wayne Feindel cognoscenti on Idiots guide for handling politicians. Listen to your citizens folks or at least go to the launching of the book-NEW BRUNSWICK IS BRAIN DEAD Sept 15, 2022 in Moncton.

    • Kata List Productions says:

      You’re an entertaining chap… I think we spoke on the phone many years ago when I first came to the area…. I thought this was a great comment by you but a little bit of love goes a long way in this part of the world… we’re not all blessed with discernment are we? So the “brain dead” things turns out its a real thing …. https://www.facebook.com/New-Brunswick-is-Brain-Dead-100106485889714/?business_id=456290144533916 … nothing wrong with a little shameless self promotion in the comments section – Bruce Wark keeps things interesting around here – thank God!
      This also came up at the search engine.. made me chuckle. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/24/new-brunswick-mystery-brain-disease/ … if you’ll recall our phone years ago it had to do with my concerns about the oral fluoride mouth rinse given weekly in the public schools to youth ages 5-10 yrs since 1979.

      • Wayne Feindel Puppet of the people says:

        Obviously you are a person of discernment and your cup over flows with that rare brain bean: Common sense. Oh Yes! I do remember the oral fluoride issue. To think I thought I had forgotten everything.

  4. Mike Gallant says:

    I sure hope some folks that are making “comments” that seem like thinly veiled accusations are fully prepared to back up their “opinions”. Reputational damage lasts forever. Keep that in mind. That goes for elected and non-elected people.

  5. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

    An astute observation my fellow citizen.
    Those thinly veiled accusations are more dangerous than one knows. Used the word ‘nebulous’ once to describe the educational plans of the Mckenna government. I was marched right to the District office for a dressing down. Luckily for me they were not as scary as my sergeant major.
    In New Brunswick you have four under fed watch dogs that can sniff out facts to form opinions. A tight leash is kept on this vicious pack. You know the Hounds of Truthfulness.

    1.The Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.(is that an oxymoron) like less transparency means more privacy.
    2,Ombuds person. Too bad Sackville’ lawyer thought that council interrogating Fredericton was breaking the law. Incidentally the town can go to the Ombuds office to be the third party that makes sure the community is being treated with administrative fairness which is consistent with Natural law; which is basically being treated in fair and reasonable manner by the provincial government. Facts galore in what is left of local news.
    3. Auditor Generals office(mostly ignored)
    4.Youth Advocate. Did you see how quick the government put a choke collar on that beast. Youth Advocacy watch dog is going to be muzzled. You’ll see why with this fact.
    Now it took this citizen five years, one heart attack to get an answer concerning a serious. Can a citizen that ask questions be vexatious? Of course we can. That’s our job in a democracy. You think? Think again, “The individual below has contacted the ombudsman office requesting and official response as to why we are blocking him. “You are going to love these guys because they’re
    actually thinking. 12/13/2013 From RTIPA: E-mail from XXXXXXX. on blocking a citizen. “We do not have a stick policy on this xxxxxxxxx “five dedeacted lines. Discussion about a global block (anti spam servers) Back and forth.

    Subject Re: block sender
    “We need to identity a protocol for handling requests for blocking if we do not already have one. At first glance it does not seem appropriate that an admin would have the authority to request a block of a member of the public from sending email to gnb. xxxxxxxxxxxxx”

    12/15/2013 “I would say the alternative of blocking to a specific mailbox should be handled through a rule and not a global block.”
    10/10/2013 3:15 pm
    “Email address is being blocked’
    Factual and frightening to put it mildly.
    Ombudsman 6/31/2014 “The Department agreed with our recommendation and has placed it on their work plan to be completed no later than the end of the year 2014-2015 school year,” Would some one check that for me? I’m short staffed.

  6. Tristan says:

    First it was magical exploding plastic dust! Now it’s conflict of interest! How much sh*t are you going to throw at the wall before something sticks? This town seems incredibly bored, you folks need to go on a trip or something. Get outta town!

    Who applied for the bylaw change? Mike Wilson and Andrew Fraser. Who granted that approval?
    Sabine Dietz – YAY
    Andrew Black – YAY
    Allison Butcher – YAY
    Matt Estrabrook – YAY
    Bills Evans – YAY
    Ken Hicks – YAY
    Mike Tower – YAY
    Bruce Phinney – NAY

    Read that again and tell me where the mesheau boys are.

    • Susan says:

      The Wildlife Enforcement Officers were up on the site yesterday due to the fact they cleared the site durning the Migratory Bird nesting season. Clearing during the nesting season is a vilolation of the Migratory Bird and Conservation Act. You’d have to be an idiot to violate that….its a federal offence. So the sh*t will continue, but they are creatiing much of it themselves.:-)

      • Tristan says:

        What exactly does that have to do with my comment?

      • Susan says:

        It was just a comment that some of the sh*t being thrown at them was coming from the government as a result of their own foolish actions.

  7. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

    Citizen Tristan you are certainly a concerned citizen and you have made it clear that you do not want Entity 41 to re-open the by -law change clearing the way for plastic pipe plant. Your wonderful tally of who voted for the by-law shows that a majority of council votes ,”YAY” . Feeling passionate about one side of an issue is fuel for considering running for the Newly formed community.

    After two World Wars, our own people without firing a single bullet, or dropping a single Bomb, the Provincial government is apparently violating the principles of Natural justice and has introduced those -“isms” that frighten people and cause distrust within the community that no longer exists . Only the present matters. I don’t think we want to put people on trains just yet.

    It is tough when when in a University community where people are supposedly taught to think, but not like some students believe; to tell others what they should think.

    It is every citizen’s right to ask. I only wish that more people who are bored would take up Joanne Duncan-Robinson’s charge that the principal of every, “activity of every retired citizen with income, health and mental vigour should devote the last years to the mature person’s proper work: that is public dissent and advocacy-bringing the experience and accumulated wisdom of a working life time to bear on the problems, facing society.” I chose education and local governance. Now that we are a spliced community with no history, you are part of what big government and big business likes; so yes, it is a citizen’s duty to find what sticks, and what does not.

    Thank goodness that we have the New Warktimes which is illuminating the poor way in which people communicate their fears for the future. Not to worry there will be more to hit the fan..so to speak.

  8. Mike Gallant says:

    And these “experts” that are trotted out from Mt A – wouldn’t last a day in the real world (or the serious academic world) – they are small town cheap as Justice Gomery alluded to when critiquing the Chrétien sins. What was Prof Martins score card on council? Getting a traffic light timing changed? C’mon get serious…..

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