Div. 1 Councillor Kamachi Faces Disqualification
Councillor Mark Kamachi is facing a court challenge asking for his disqualification. He is being challenged on two grounds:
· that he voted on issues in which he had a pecuniary (monetary) interest; and,
· that he failed to maintain his eligibility for candidacy
The pecuniary interest allegations stem from work Kamachi’s advertising firm, AdMaki, has done for the County. AdMaki was paid out of the County’s Economic Development budget which Kamachi voted on as part of the County’s operating budget. Under the Municipal Government Act (MGA), councillors must recuse themselves from voting on any issue in which they have a direct pecuniary interest. It’s hard to not construe a direct monetary connection between being paid for work your business does and voting on the budget that provides the funds for those payments.
Eligibility for Candidacy
The allegations that he failed to maintain his eligibility are based on payments made to a local monthly paper that were not related to his work as a councillor and for which he was reimbursed by the County.
The MGA’s rules are clear – a councillor who violates any of the grounds for disqualification “must resign immediately”. Should a councillor not agree that he or she has violated those provisions, the MGA provides for either the municipality or an elector to apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench for a judge to rule on the matter.
Over a year ago, we filed a code of conduct complaint against Kamachi regarding the above-mentioned pecuniary interest allegations. The complaint asserted that Councillor Kamachi had not only voted on the County’s budget which covered payments to his business but that some of the work hadn’t been tendered, as required by county policy, to ensure fair market value.
The council-appointed investigator dismissed our complaint on two grounds – it did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that the services were not provided at fair market value; and a code of conduct complaint was not the correct avenue for a pecuniary interest complaint – that the complaint should be pursued in court.
The investigator’s response was provided both to us and to Council. The code of conduct complaint would have made council fully aware of the allegations against Kamachi; however, they chose to take no action.
Initially, we decided not to proceed as we were unsure if we had sufficient evidence to go to court. However, once the expense account issue surfaced, it tipped the balance. Since the County was turning a blind eye to these matters, we decided that something needed to be done so we started the process for the court challenge.
Following the MGA’s provisions, we met with Kamachi, who was accompanied by Reeve Henn, at the end of January. We laid out our concerns and advised Kamachi that, if he did not resign, we would take the matter to court. His told us he would let us know his decision. We never heard back.
On March 25th, our application was filed in court, and on April 16th, Kamachi was served his papers. Navigating the legal system during COVID is no easy feat. As a result, it took longer than expected to file the case. During this time, we heard that Kamachi was telling people that we were just bluffing. Interestingly, we had told no one of our intentions. We were giving Kamachi the opportunity to resign quietly, without all this becoming public. In fact, we said nothing about the matter until he announced it publicly at the start of the April 20th council meeting. The issue was further publicized when Councillor McKylor took to Facebook in Kamachi’s defence. Had they remained silent, we would have continued to say nothing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Since the matter has become public, we have been asked the following:
Why did we file in court?
As members of Rocky View Forward, we were approached by Bragg Creek residents concerned that AdMaki was doing work for the County and that it wasn’t being disclosed.
In response, we filed a Freedom of Information request. The results of that request showed that AdMaki was, in fact, doing advertising work for the County.
Again, as an advocacy group, we believe strongly that rules are important, that they need to be followed, and that they need to be applied equitably. We brought the matter to the County’s attention; they did nothing with it. Since the County has continued to ignore the allegations against Kamachi, as a matter of principle, we believe the allegations should be tested in court.
Is this a tit-for-tat response to the County’s disqualification case against Wright?
We believe it would have been more appropriate for the County to pursue these charges as they have pursued those against Wright. From our perspective, allegations against any councillor need to be dealt with appropriately and equitably. Are there parallels? Certainly. Is the County’s response similar? Not at all.
The pecuniary interest allegations against Wright are based on possible speculative impacts on her property value resulting from her neighbour subdividing his 20-acre parcel into 2-acre parcels comparable to her own and those of her existing neighbours. The pecuniary interest allegations against Kamachi are that he earned hard cash from business dealings with the County after voting to approve the budget from which those payments were made. At no point during the budget deliberations did Kamachi disclose he was doing work for the County and being paid out of the budget he was approving.
The failure to maintain eligibility allegations against Wright hinge on her not paying her taxes. Wright paid her taxes within hours of learning they were outstanding. The parallel allegations against Kamachi are that he chose to expense amounts that were not related to his councillor responsibilities. When the issue was raised, instead of repaying the amounts, he continued to expense those items.
Having two councillors facing court challenges for alleged activities that disqualify them does not make the second case “tit for tat”. If both cases had been brought by the County, no one would raise that question. The question should be – why did council choose to pursue one but not the other?
Did we threaten Kamachi in an extortion attempt?
Absolutely not. We followed the same steps Boehlke and Schule followed with Wright. They had a meeting with Wright in advance, telling her she could go quietly or they would be seeking her disqualification in court.
We met with Kamachi and explained our position both verbally and in writing. We stated that, if he resigned quietly, we would say nothing, but that if he didn’t we would follow through on the provisions in the MGA and seek his disqualification in court.
Why are we continuing after Kamachi announced he does not plan to run in the October election?
Simply promising not to run again does not absolve a councillor from the need to take responsibility for his actions. The MGA is clear on that. Councillors are in a position of public trust and they need to be held accountable for their actions.
Furthermore, there is nothing guaranteeing that he won’t run. During the 2017 campaign, Kamachi was asked if he was working for the County. He acknowledged that AdMaki did work for the County and promised that, if this ever caused a conflict, he would recuse himself. He did not follow through on that promise. In our opinion, that raises doubts about giving too much weight to his words.
Let’s not forget, the remedy the MGA provides is that Kamachi “must resign” or defend himself at the Court of Queen’s Bench. Again, we provided him the offer to go quietly. He declined. We are now making good on our commitment to go to court.
What do you have to say about Councillor McKylor demanding that you run?
Kim Magnuson has already served as a councillor. She was Springbank's councillor from 2010-2013. She has been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.
Janet Ballantyne had been looking forward to running against Councillor McKylor in the October election had the electoral boundaries not been changed to remove that possibility. She would also gladly run against Councillor Kamachi under the new boundaries should he put his name forward and should Councillor Hanson choose not to run. As it stands, if Hanson chooses to run, she feels she will be well-represented. If Hanson doesn’t run, you will almost certainly see her name on the ballot.