A council member must disclose his or her interest each and every time the matter in which an interest is held is brought before council. Disclosure of an interest at one meeting does not carry over to other meetings or last for the full term of council. If a council member is absent from a council meeting where a matter that he or she has an interest is discussed, the member must disclose the interest at the next council meeting.
All situations of real or perceived conflict of interest, as well as bias, should be assessed with great caution. At any point where the subject of potential conflict arises, be it at a committee or council meeting, or even outside of a meeting format, legislation requires the member to abstain from voting and not participate in discussion in any way, be it formally or informally. Informal participation extends to being present in the room, as influence can be exerted through body language as much as verbal or written communication.
If an interest is properly declared, there is no conflict in the decision made by council. When an interest is declared, the declaration:
- occurs before any consideration or discussion;
- requires that the general nature of the conflict be disclosed; and
- includes any material details that may reasonably be seen to affect the member’s impartiality.
A declaration of a conflict of interest, including the general nature, the material details, and the abstention/withdrawal, are recorded in the meeting minutes.