Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Potential conflict in Brandon deepens

  • Print

BRANDON -- As new details emerge relating to efforts by the Brandon Folk Music and Art Society (BFMAS) to convert the former Strand Theatre in downtown Brandon into a 450-seat performing arts centre, the issue of possible conflicts of interest involving various local politicians has dominated local media coverage.

While the discussion has focused on Brandon East MLA Drew Caldwell, a growing number of Brandonites are also asking if Mayor Shari Decter Hirst's private interests in the success of the Strand project are in conflict with her public duty as Brandon's mayor.

For those unfamiliar with the situation, the society submitted an application to the federal Department of Canadian Heritage in March 2011, seeking more than $2 million in funding for the project.

The balance would come from the provincial government ($1,114,065), BFMAS fundraising ($500,000), and the City of Brandon ($474,000, through its downtown development agency, Renaissance Brandon).

Within the 200 pages funding application document -- which has never been made public -- is the BFMAS organizational chart. It indicates that "Dr. D. Decter" is the folk music and art society's treasurer and a member of its board of directors.

Dr. Diarmud Decter is Shari Decter Hirst's husband.

Also in the application is a copy of a letter (on City of Brandon letterhead) signed by Decter Hirst, in her capacity as Brandon mayor, in which she strongly endorses the project. It does not disclose that her husband is an officer and director of BFMAS.

Last summer, at the behest of the society, Renaissance Brandon advanced $100,000 in funding for emergency structural repairs of the Strand building. Decter Hirst is one of three Brandon city council representatives on the Renaissance Brandon board of directors.

Brandon city councillor Len Isliefson, who also serves on the Renaissance Brandon board, has confirmed to me that Decter Hirst has been present at board meetings where funding for the Strand Project was discussed.

Isliefson says she has never declared a conflict of interest, nor removed herself from any of those meetings while Strand matters were discussed.

Isliefson was unaware Dr. Decter was an officer and director of BFMAS until I told him.

The declaration of assets filed by Decter Hirst with the City of Brandon indicates she owns the property located across the street from the Strand, and another property less than a block from the former theatre.

She told the Brandon Sun if the Strand project is successfully completed, her property across from the theatre will increase in value.

These facts present a serious problem for Decter Hirst.

It is illegal for any member of a municipal council (including a mayor) to be present at a council meeting where a matter in which the council member, or a member of her family, has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest is being discussed. (See the Municipal Council Conflict of Interest Act, sections 4-6 and 16.)

The member must immediately disclose the general nature of the interest, remove himself or herself from the meeting, and must not attempt to influence the matter in any manner.

The same rules apply to "a meeting of any commission, board or agency on which the councillor serves in his official capacity as a councillor." Renaissance Brandon is such an agency.

The consequences for breach of those rules are serious -- disqualification from office and an order to repay any pecuniary gain.

Decter Hirst has said she stands to benefit financially from the completion of the Strand project. Her husband is an officer and director of BFMAS, which has already received $100,000 in funding from Renaissance Brandon and which is still seeking another $374,000.

She attended Renaissance Brandon meetings when the Strand project funding was discussed but neither declared a conflict of interest nor removed herself from any of those meetings nor did she disclose to the board her husband was an officer and director of BFMAS.

She used her influence as Brandon's mayor in an attempt to induce the federal government to give more than $2 million to a corporation of which her husband is an officer and director, according to Isliefson.

While only a judge can determine if Decter Hirst has violated the applicable legislation, she should be concerned.

Deveryn Ross is a political commentator living in Brandon.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2012 A12

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Total Body Tune-Up: Farmer's Carry

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Aerial view of Portage and Main, The Esplanade Riel, Provencher Bridge over the Red River, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and The Forks near the Assiniboine River, October 21st, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) CMHR
  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google