Alleged conflict dismissed

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran is dismissing allegations he, or any of his councillors, let campaign contributions sway a decision to approve a 33-storey hotel for downtown Kelowna.

The allegations have surfaced after council voted 5-2 in favour of the development proposed by Edmonton-based Westcorp, despite a strong recommendation of non-support from the city's planning staff.

The mayor, along with councillors Brad Sieben, Luke Stack, Gail Given and Mohini Singh all voted in favour of the project. All received campaign contributions from Westcorp.

Both Charlie Hodge and Ryan Donn, who voted against, did not receive contributions, although it's not clear if any were offered.

Basran says no one on council did anything illegal.

"I think it's ridiculous to think that, for a small amount of money, council's favour can be bought," said Basran.

"What these people often don't keep in mind is that we vote against people who have donated to our campaign in the past, too. That goes by without a story."

Basran said that donation didn't weigh into his decision, and said it didn't weigh into the decision of other councillors.

Westcorp president Phil Milroy contributed to the campaigns of all five candidates under four corporate identities. He made contributions under Downtown Marina Inc. Westcorp Property Inc. Westcorp Property Management and Westcorp Property Management Inc.

Basran and Sieben each received contributions of $2,000, while Given, Singh and Stack received $1,000 each. Coun. Maxine DeHart also received $1,000 in campaign contributions, but she recused herself from the debate and vote because of her involvement in the hotel industry.

Back in the 1990's, the BC Court of Appeal ruled campaign contributions do not constitute a conflict of interest. That case involved a vote by Nanaimo city council.

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