Koe denies conflict
Declaration signed should be enough, WCB head says

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 31/97) - Fred Koe says his interest in a petroleum company poses no conflict of interest with his job as chair of the NWT Workers' Compensation Board (WCB).

Koe was recently appointed to the board of directors of K2 Energy Corporation.

"I signed an oath of confidentiality and a conflict of interest declaration when I started with the WCB," he says. He also said conflicts of interest are declared at each board meeting.

"I do my job professionally and with integrity," he emphasized.

Jim Evoy, president of the NWT Federation of Labor, isn't convinced, however.

Evoy said he is deeply concerned about what he views as "the less than neutral conduct of the WCB's chairman."

Evoy has asked for Koe's resignation either from his position on the board of directors of K2 Energy or as chair of the NWT Workers' Compensation Board.

K2 Energy is a publicly-traded petroleum company on the Toronto stock exchange with production in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana. It has no business dealings in the NWT.

Evoy made his request in a letter dated March 19 to the minister responsible for the WCB, John Todd. Koe's dual role "undermines the integrity of the workers' compensation system in the NWT," Evoy said.

Todd replied that "the implied conflict is unfounded."

He said Koe is not hiding anything, as demonstrated by the announcement of his appointment to K2's board of directors in a local newspaper.

Todd said he discussed the matter with Koe, and is confident there's no perceived conflict of interest.

The office of the WCB chair mediates and promotes business and labor partnerships, which are at the heart of the workers' compensation system, said Evoy.

The Workers' Compensation Board is an institution "out of control and there ought to be a review," he said.

WCB president Gerry Meier referred any questions on the matter to the minister or the board itself.

Koe was appointed to the WCB last November.

As chair, he acts as the direct link between the WCB and Todd on matters concerning the board of directors and ensures adherence to legislation and policies.