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Coquitlam councillor is on board of Kwikwetlem biz company

A Coquitlam city councillor who is also vice-chair of the city’s Riverview Lands Advisory Committee has a new role that could potentially land him in a conflict.
Coquitlam Coun. Dennis Marsden.

A Coquitlam city councillor who is also vice-chair of the city’s Riverview Lands Advisory Committee has a new role that could potentially land him in a conflict.

But Coun. Dennis Marsden told The Tri-City News this week he would recuse himself from any debates at city hall and at the Metro Vancouver board table should the topic of Riverview arise.

Marsden was recently named to the board of the directors of the KFN Enterprises, an economic development body for the 82-member Kwikwetlem First Nation.

The band, which has two reserves within Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam municipal boundaries, has an aboriginal title claim before the B.C. Supreme Court for a small but significant portion of its traditional territory that includes the Riverview Hospital lands, the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, Colony Farm — a Metro Vancouver regional park — and Gates Park in Port Coquitlam.

Currently, Riverview is undergoing a visioning process by BC Housing and the city to develop the 244 acres that once housed thousands of mental health patients.

Besides his civic titles, which include being chair of the city’s economic development advisory committee, Marsden is also an alternate Metro Van board director for Coquitlam.

On Monday, Marsden said he was invited to join the KFN Enterprises board and, on May 31, it had its first meeting. Marsden said he will be paid for the work but did not say how much.

His role with KFN Enterprises “is [as] with any board: to provide that oversight on governance,” he said. “I would offer my expertise in general business operations. I offer expertise in HR, my expertise in terms of finance… I just do my overall 30-plus years of business experience.”

Marsden defended his new job with KFN Enterprises, saying it deals strictly with business operations and is separate from any legal claim the band has for Riverview land.

He also vowed to recuse himself from civic and Metro board talks should the matter arise. Marsden said he has had no feedback from Coquitlam council or the community about his KFN post.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, who also chairs the Metro Vancouver board of directors, told The Tri-City News last week it’s up to Marsden to determine if his KFN role is a conflict of interest.

“It would only be a conflict if he was sitting as an alternate [for Metro] and the land titles issue was presented in front of us,” Moore said, adding, “It’s not up to the board chair or the mayor of the community to determine if someone has a conflict of interest.”

The province’s Community Charter sets out ethical conduct for elected officials, specifically addressing conflicts of interest, inside and outside influence, gifts, contracts, use of inside information and exceptions.

Under Section 100 of the legislation, a city councillor must declare a conflict of interest if he or she has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter under consideration (a council member must also declare a conflict if he or she has some other, non-pecuniary type of interest that places the person in a conflict position).

Section 101 states the council member must recuse him or herself from any part of the meeting in which the matter is under consideration and must not take part in any discussion of or vote on the matter.

Coun. Craig Hodge, chair of the city’s Riverview Lands Advisory Committee, said he has not yet spoken with Marsden about his new KFN post but he said it will likely be discussed by his advisory committee and council after the summer break.

“I’m certain there are some people on the committee who will be asking and I think it will be up to Coun. Marsden to explain,” he said.

According to its website, KFN Enterprises is a holding company that handles project management, land development, commercial and light industrial property management and venture capital financing on behalf of the band. “KFNE is owned 100% by the Kwikwetlem First Nation but managed at arm’s length from the Kwikwetlem community and council,” the website reads.

The corporation is overseen by Kwikwetlem First Nation Chief Ron Giesbrecht and civil project consultant David Leitch, and governed by directors Marsden, Carol Lee and Gary Gottfriedson.

Jenna Cyr, KFN Enterprises’ chief information officer and manager of partnerships and business, as well as Giesbrecht and the band council’s executive assistant, did not return requests for comment.

Meanwhile, PoCo’s Moore praised the band for reaching out to gain public input on its business ventures.

Moore described his relationship with Chief Giesbrecht as “excellent.”

“Even though we have this one [land claim] issue, we have to work together. Under Chief Giesbrecht, what they have done in seven years has completely change the First Nations’ lands and they have concrete plans to move forward.”