VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver Coun. Michael Wiebe is refuting accusations that he broke conflict of interest rules by voting on a temporary patio policy in the city during this pandemic.
Wiebe owns a restaurant and also has money invested in a pub in Vancouver.
For those reasons, an independent investigation found that he broke code of conduct rules and should have recused himself from the vote, with his business interests becoming the beneficiary of the policy.
In a statement, Wiebe writes he’s ‘deeply distressed’ to learn that he was the focus of an internal investigation, saying he’s not happy the complaint has been filed without his knowledge.
“Back in the spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact Vancouver, I was working collaboratively with mayor, council and the business community to try to help restaurants, breweries and cafes safely re-open, while keeping their staff and the people that want to dine out safe and at a physical distance from each other,” Wiebe says in a release.
“As part of that effort, I voted on May 12 and 13 to direct staff to work with business operators to identify temporary patio seating options that would move indoor seating capacity outdoors to improve physical distancing during the COVID-19 emergency.”
In respect of the confidential Code or Conduct process, this is all I will be saying on the matter for now.https://t.co/84OupphhNp
— Michael Wiebe (@councillorwiebe) September 21, 2020
Ahead of voting, he says he asked for advice from city management, and judged that the patio policy was city-wide and didn’t benefit him over other operators, whether restaurants or breweries.
“I was also informed that it is up to me to determine whether I can participate with an open mind in the votes,” Wiebe says.
“Based on this information, I decided to vote on the temporary patio policy with the good-faith belief that I did not have a conflict and that I had made appropriate inquiries. I believed at the time that this vote was in the best interests of the business community and all of its employees and more broadly in the best interests of the City of Vancouver. I still believe this is the case.”
On June 2, his restaurant applied for a temporary patio extension and it was approved.
“My restaurant’s application, I believe, was one of the first 14 to receive the temporary patio extension because I already have city-approved patio drawings from my frequent participation in street festivals, and my spot did not have any complications, like a loading zone, taxi stand, passenger zone or utility cover,” he says.
“Now there are more than 300 restaurants, breweries, and cafes across the city, which have patio extensions because of this program,” Wiebe adds.
“While I did vote on this city-wide temporary emergency measure, I should note that because of my business interests, I have recused myself from other votes, including on June 11, involving patio extension fees and permanent patio and liquor extension policies.”
Wiebe says he acted in good faith at all times throughout this process and has requested the investigator give him an opportunity to respond.
“That said, despite my best of intentions, if I inadvertently made an error in this matter, I am deeply sorry. I always strive to look out for the public’s interests and conduct myself accordingly. We are at a pivotal time for our city and I hope that this matter will not distract from the critical issues that we are facing during these challenging and unprecedented times.”
Wiebe is a member of the Green Party of Vancouver. Another civic party — the NPA — has called on him to resign.