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Water board chair wore two hats

Jack Danylchuk
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 22/05) - The territorial government is searching its files for work done by Todd Burlingame when he was a consultant on oil and gas issues and a member of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board.

Industry minister Brendan Bell said the review was prompted by "expressions of concern in the media from an MLA and members of the public."

Kee Scarp, Burlingame's company, was paid about $380,000 between 1998 and 2003 to do a variety of work for the territorial government, Bell said in a recent interview.

The company staged conferences and workshops in several regions, hosted and developed programs for a geo-science forum, said Bell, who will make the results of the review public.

Bell said any question of conflict would have to be determined by the federal government who employed Burlingame as a member and then chair of the review board.

"We were comfortable with the contracting relationship," he said.

Legal opinion sought

Burlingame's dual role is not seen as a problem by Indian Affairs minister Andy Scott, whose department is responsible for appointments to the board.

Campbell Morrison, a spokesman for Scott, said Burlingame sought a legal opinion on his roles for the two governments and was given a green light. "He has recogonized potential conflicts in the past and recused himself from some decisions," Morrison said.

Morrison said that before Burlingame became full-time chair of the board in 2003, he consulted a lawyer and was told that there was no conflict with his job as an oil and gas consultant to the territorial government. Nevertheless, Morrison said Burlingame dropped his part-time work as a consultant when he became the full-time chair of the review board.

Burlingame has been dogged by controversy since he was appointed chair of the MacKenzie Valley Land and Water Board earlier this year over three candidates recommended by the board and the territorial government.

"He's the best guy for the job," Morrison said.