Councillors, Alvinston Optimist under the microscope, again

BLAKE ELLIS/LOCAL JOURNALISM INITIATIVE PHOTO Mayor David Ferguson, Deputy Mayor Frank Nemcek and Councillor Jenny Redick swear the oath of office administered by Hope United Church’s Rev. Jim Breen in Nov. 2022 at the Brooke-Alvinston-Inwood Community Centre. Redick and Nemcek were found guilty of a conflict of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

Two members of Brooke-Alvinston council are under the microscope for their ties to a local service club.

It’s the second time complaints have been launched against council members who also serve with the Alvinston Optimist Club.

In Jan. 2021, when Brooke-Alvinston decided to build a pavilion at the Brooke-Alvinston-Inwood Community Centre, the municipality went to the Integrity Commissioner with the same concerns after a public complaint. Now both Councillor Jenny Redick and Deputy Mayor Frank Nemcek are the subject of a complaint which Robert Swayze is again looking into. And Redick is frustrated by the move.

Redick says this complaint apparently came after council passed a contract with the Alvinston Optimist for the use of the pavilion. 

Redick and Nemcek, both Optimist members, voted in favour of the deal, as did the rest of council.

Sometime after the vote, a complaint was launched, which Clerk Janet Denkers says is now in the hands of the Integrity Commissioner. She’s not clear if a full investigation is already underway.

But Redick is confused by the action, saying this matter was deal with under the former council. 

In Dec. 2020, council moved ahead agreeing to move forward with a pavilion project from the Optimists. 

A letter, addressed to the mayor and council and included in the minutes the next meeting, questioned whether the Optimist members were in conflict over moving the project forward. Council was split on the decision.

Council reviewed it in Jan. 2021 and decided to ask Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze to weigh in. 

By February, he responded that then Councillor Jamie Armstrong and Nemcek were able to make decision on the project.

“They are both members of the club but I understand they are volunteers and not paid as members. I also understand that neither of them is in the building business and will not benefit in any way from the construction of the building except as members of the community,” he wrote.

“In my opinion, the two members do not have a pecuniary interest in the construction of the building and therefore do not contravene the MCIA (Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.) It is not required that they declare a conflict on any related matter coming before council.”

Swayze added if they feel they can’t be impartial they could chose to declare a conflict, but that would mean their vote would be against the project. 

Redick says this appears to be virtually the same situation since the rental agreement would see money returned to the municipality, not the councillors.

“I went back and looked, the Integrity Commissioner at the time found no pecuniary interest, because there was no exchange of money. I wasn’t benefiting it from it, neither was my family,” she tells The Independent. “I just find it’s a real shame that it has to happen again.

“With small municipalities that don’t have the bodies to go around to do good things for our community, and you rely on user groups and volunteers; if we didn’t have the volunteers and the user groups that we have, we would be like a ghost town.”

Redick adds politics attracts the same type of community-minded people as those who join service clubs.

“We want better the community; that’s why I went on council I want to better my community. That’s why I joined the Optimist because they do so much for the municipality.”