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Neil Godbout: Sampson's conduct doesn't meet the sniff test

The core issue here isn’t Sampson’s integrity. It’s whether he violated, intentionally or unintentionally, in a minor or major way, city council’s code of conduct.
kylesamspon
Kyle Sampson in this 2018 file photo.

Coun. Kyle Sampson is in political hot water and, based on his public reaction, he knows it.

Fellow city councillor Brian Skakun wants to have a public discussion at a city council meeting about how Sampson received a $157,000 provincial grant to put on this weekend’s country music festival at Exhibition Park. Specifically, Skakun wants to know why Mayor Lyn Hall and senior city administrators wrote letters of support for Sampson’s business without some input from the rest of city council.

Sampson can complain that Skakun made it “a political thing” by bringing it up two months before this fall’s municipal elections all he likes but it doesn’t change the fact that, on principle, Skakun has a point and is doing his job as a city councillor to bring it forward.

Whether Sampson is donating some or all his financial proceeds to charity, whether this outdoor concert is good for the city, whether it makes money or not for Sampson, and what Skakun’s private motives might be are side issues that have nothing to do with the core matter.

When mayor and council discuss this issue, they should look at two specific clauses of the City of Prince George’s council code of conduct.

Section 11 (Use of Public Resources) states: “Members shall not use City public resources such as staff time, equipment, supplies or facilities, for private gain or personal purposes.”

Did Sampson do that while asking for and receiving his letters of support from Mayor Hall and the City of Prince George?

Furthermore, Sampson’s response to The Citizen suggesting Skakun is bringing this forward at this time for political reasons is a lame effort at deflection that may be in violation of another section of the council code of conduct.

Section 3 (Conduct of Members) states: “The conduct of members in the performance of their duties and responsibilities with the City must be fair, open and honest. Members shall refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of Council, committees, the City staff or the public.”

Sampson could have avoided this whole problem if he had applied for the provincial grant without city support, going just with the other letters from local groups and with a note in his application saying he did not seek a support letter from the City of Prince George to avoid any perceived conflict of interest and undue use of political influence to benefit his private business.

And if he felt a support letter from the City of Prince George was essential to his grant application, he could have taken the initiative by asking the rest of council at a public meeting to approve or deny his request for a letter.

Everything above board and beyond reproach. Everything transparent.

The core issue here isn’t Sampson’s integrity. It’s whether he violated, intentionally or unintentionally, in a minor or major way, city council’s code of conduct.

In this case, there are 157,000 reasons why a sitting city councillor urging the mayor and senior staff to support his bid for provincial government funds to benefit his private business doesn’t meet the sniff test of conflict of interest and undue influence.

Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout